A story for every victim

Angel Cortez, 1 [Update]

Angel Cortez (2012-06-04)

Angel Cortez, a 1-year-old Latino baby, was shot and killed Monday, June 4, in the 10500 block of Hickory Street in Watts, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

The shooting occurred about 7:50 p.m. on the sidewalk. The victim's father, Mauro Cortez, had just donned a purple T-shirt a friend had given him.

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

But as Cortez's extended family congregated outside the home, his stepfather and stepbrothers urged the 21-year-old construction worker to remove the shirt, witnesses said. Purple had become a dangerous color since last summer, when the area experienced a number of shootings involving a black gang known as Fudgetown and a rival Latino gang called Barrio Grape Street, which uses the color purple.

An immigrant from rural Mexico, Cortez "didn't know nothing about people killing each other over the color purple," said Luis Ramos, a friend. "He barely speaks English."

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.

At an afternoon news conference, Mauro Cortez spoke briefly to reporters in Spanish, then left the podium in tears.

LAPD Deputy Police Chief Pat Gannon held a photo of the child, whom he called "this beautiful little Angel," and said the city was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killer's capture. Timothy Leiweke, president of AEG, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, later offered an additional $50,000.

“During such an exciting time such as this we can’t lose sight of the importance and responsibility we all share in keeping our community safe,” Leiweke said in a statement posted online. “Our players and staff feel a tremendous obligation to do everything we can to help find who committed this terrible act of irresponsibility and hopefully this can contribute to the effort to acquire the information necessary to find who did this and make sure everyone knows this is unacceptable in our city.”

Police Chief Charlie Beck called the boy's death "an awful tragedy."

"Gang violence touches everybody," Beck said. "People have to understand that even though gangs may target each other, victims cross a wide, broad swath."

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact LAPD gang homicide detectives at (213) 485-4175. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (222-8477).

[Updated July 16: Teen pleads not guilty to murder in fatal shooting of 1-year-old]

[Updated June 2, 2013: Teen who murdered baby in dad's arms gets 90 years to life]

--Sam Quinones, Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

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