LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police Chief Michel Moore called for calm in the streets Friday after what he called a spasm of gun violence in South Los Angeles killed four and wounded 19 wounded in the past six days as the city has recorded nearly 40 more homicides so far this year than last year.
“This is a pace of shooting and violence that we've not seen in years,” Moore said as he and community leaders condemned the crimes. “I fear, given the velocity, where is the lid on this?”
The shootings have occurred across a 59 square-mile (152 square-kilometer) area that comprises 12% of the city's population but now accounts for 39% of the homicides and 45% of the shootings, Deputy Chief Regina Scott said. The city as a whole has recorded 39 more killings and 101 more shootings to date compared with last year.
Shootings in the area once known as South Central have claimed victims over a wide range of ages, but they have been particularly cruel to “our very young and our very innocent,” Moore said. Forty victims have been under age 18, and nine of them were under 10.
A 14-year-old youth football player was among those gunned down in the past week. A young man who wants to become a police officer was ambushed in his car at a traffic light and wounded when he was shot in a case of mistaken identity.
Some victims were gang members. But people were picked off in cross walks and struck by gunfire in their homes.
A 79-year-old woman was shot standing beside her car, Scott said. A 77-year-old woman and her 58-year-old daughter were struck by gunfire inside their home.
Moore blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for fueling the violence because of the economic turmoil it has caused while also giving people few outlets for social contact.
He was accompanied by a group that included two city councilmembers, clergy and other leaders who called on community members to lay down their arms, come together and not be afraid to speak out if they have witnessed a crime.
“We have so many of our young people that are dying for no reason at all,” Bishop Grover Durham of the Good Citizen Deeds Foundation said. “This has got to stop. ... This is a call for a cease fire."
Moore, who has had his department's budget modestly trimmed as a result of the defund police movement, urged the City Council to continue to invest in the department.
City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a former police officer, said trust remained high between the community and LAPD, but he said officers need help to do their jobs.
"It's not going to take only the LAPD to help. It's going to take you the community,” he said. “Come forward if you have information on these knuckleheads who are terrorizing our community.”
Scott, whose son and grandson live in the area, said that in addition to the four people killed since Sunday, 19 were shot and 11 were fired at but not struck.
A week ago, she met with mothers of murder victims and heard “countless stories" of children no longer with them.
“Today, sadly,” she lamented, "I'm adding four mamas to that number."