A story for every victim

Karla Villa, 15

Karla Villa, a 15-year-old Latina, died Sunday, Jan. 7, after being shot in the 4500 block of North Heathdale Avenue in Covina, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records. 

The Baldwin Hills High School sophomore was with a group of about 10 friends around 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Gus Carrillo. 

Several groups of teenagers had received an Instagram message about a party on North Heathdale Avenue, Carrillo said, but when they arrived, the residents said there wasn’t a party at the house. 

Karla’s friends and several other groups of teens waited outside on the sidewalk, checking their phones for a new Instagram message clarifying the address for the party, Carrillo said. Karla was standing near the curb in front of a house under construction when a dark-colored SUV stopped near the group. 

That’s when witnesses reported multiple shots being fired, Carrillo said. 

Most of the teens scattered when the gunfire began, but Karla was shot in the back of the head. She was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead at 3:38 p.m. the following day, according to coroner’s records.

Investigators do not think Karla was the target but was caught in gunfire intended for someone else, Carrillo said.

During a news conference on Feb. 16, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. 

Karla wanted to be a nurse so she could help others, Solis said, “and then all of a sudden, her life was taken away.” Investigators need help from people who were at the scene, she said. 

Authorities initially thought the gunfire came from the SUV, Det. Adan Torres said during the news conference, but they since have found evidence that someone shot from the sidewalk behind Karla. 

It’s possible someone also may have fired from the SUV, Carrillo said later, but investigators found bullet casings on the sidewalk behind where Karla had been standing, and they think those are the shots that killed her.

During the news conference, Karla’s mother, Guadalupe Villa, clutched a spotted stuffed animal her daughter used to sleep with and quietly asked for witnesses to help investigators find the shooter. 

“I want to know why,” Villa said through a Spanish interpreter, asking why someone who didn’t know her or her daughter could cause her family so much pain. 

Villa and her husband have three younger daughters and an adult son, Torres said. Villa was the only family member who stood on the podium, a small stoic woman flanked by investigators.  

“I don’t cry in front of them [her family],” Villa said through an interpreter. “I have to be strong and not let them see me suffering.” 

Torres asked witnesses to consider how they would feel if Karla had been their family member. “Wouldn’t you want someone to come forward?” he said. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Torres or Carrillo at the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriffs Det. Adan Torres, left, translates a statement made in Spanish by Guadalupe Villa, second from right, asking for information about the shooting death of her 15-year-old daughter, Karla. Villa brought her daughters favorite stuffed animal to the conference and held it tightly while waiting her turn to speak. By Jeanette Marantos / For The Times. 

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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