A story for every victim

L.A. County’s youngest homicide victims

Autumn Johnson, who turned 1 last week, was fatally wounded by gunfire as she stood in her crib in the Compton garage where she lived. Her death on Feb. 9 made her the 411th homicide of a child 5 or younger in Los Angeles County since Jan. 1, 2000.

Many are the victims of abuse or violence in their homes. Others, like Autumn, were innocent bystanders, caught in the crossfire of a confrontation or attack. Here’s a look at who those youngest victims were and how they died.

Gender:

Overall, homicide victims are overwhelmingly male. More than 85% of people killed are men or boys. The youngest victims, however, are nearly evenly split between boys and girls.

217 boys killed 183 girls killed Since Jan 1, 2000

Where they were killed:

The locations of homicides of small children largely follow the pattern for homicides in the county.

Asian

Black

Latino

White

By cause of death:

While gunshots are by far the most common cause of homicides in L.A. County, accounting for 75% of incidents, the shooting death of a very young child is more unusual. Beatings, abuse and neglect kill more than three times as many children as gunshots. Many of the deaths fall into a categorization of "other," which includes multiple traumatic injuries, head trauma, asphyxia, drowning, burns and starvation.

109 67 53 10 3 Strangled Other Blunt force Stabbing Gunshot

By race or ethnicity:

The race and ethnic makeup of children 5 or under match the proportion of all homicide victims in the county nearly exactly — unlike the patterns for gender and cause of death. Like the overall county numbers, blacks are overrepresented, representing about 10% of the county population but 30% of homicides.

The coroner's records had no racial designation for 30 of the victims.

204 116 47 13 Asian White Black Latino

Killed in the crossfire

Here’s a look at some notable cases over the years.

Angel Cortez, 1

Angel Cortez was shot and killed June 4, 2012 in Watts. The boy's father, Mauro Cortez, had just donned a purple shirt a friend had given him.

"I own a Honda," the shirt said. "Be nice to me."

Witnesses say Cortez was still wearing the shirt and holding his son when a black youth in a dark hoodie rode up to the group on a bicycle, fired a gun into the crowd and pedaled off. The bullet pierced the toddler's back and struck Cortez in the upper body. The boy died later that night at a hospital after emergency surgery, according to authorities.

Cortez was one of 13 children under the age of five killed in L.A. County that year.

Aaron Shannon Jr., 5

Aaron Shannon Jr. died Monday, Nov. 1, a day after he was shot in Florence.

Officials said Aaron was enjoying Halloween when he ran into the backyard to show off his Spider-Man costume to family members about 2 p.m. While he was outside, two men armed with handguns opened fire in the alley behind the home. At least one of the rounds struck Aaron in the back of his head. His uncle was hit in the leg, and his grandfather on the wrist.

Investigators said they believe the alleged gunmen had mistaken the location for one they intended to fire on.

Luis Garcia, 0

Luis Garcia, a 23-day-old baby boy, was killed by a stray bullet near MacArthur Park in Westlake on Sept. 15, 2007.

The mother was pushing the baby in his stroller as she shopped for clothes spread out on the sidewalk at a vending location at a busy, informal outdoor market near Home Depot. Three Latino men or youths with shaved heads walked up to the vendor and shot him in the chest. One stray bullet hit the baby.

Suzie Marie Pena, 1

Suzie Marie Pena is the only young child killed by police in The Homicide Report. She was shot and killed July 10, 2005, when her father, Jose Raul Pena, took her and her stepsister hostage inside of Raul's Auto Sales in Green Meadows.

After her stepsister escaped and believing that the girls' father had been wounded by gunfire, SWAT team members moved in to rescue Suzie. Once inside, they discovered Pena was mobile and shooting at them from behind the wall of a small office. Officers returned fire.

Suzie, caught in the crossfire, was shot once in the head by a SWAT team member.

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