Chuck Hubbs, who was the night city editor at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner when I was a copy boy there, always had me running weekend casualty counts.
Every Friday and Saturday, just when I’d be getting ready to leave, he would exhort in his unmistakably deep voice. “Check those wires kid. See how many bodies have piled up.”
I’d rip pieces of printer paper from machines that spit out copy from the Metro Wire and City News services and run them back to Chuck so that he could compile a daily body count for an inside page.
Some weekends were slow with one or two slayings. Others seemed quite busy; with eight, 10, even 15 killings.
I wonder how many of those even got solved?
This past weekend undoubtedly would have qualified as a slow one. And yet, it could have been quite deadly.
Young men were injured in shootings in Whittier and Pico Rivera.
A few other teens might have taken bullets in Baldwin Park. But somehow they were luckier than Jose Perez, 16. The Baldwin Park High student was shot to death talking to a friend outside a home in the 5000 block of Maine Avenue Saturday night.
By my count, Perez is the second student from that high school to succumb to gun violence this school year. That seems awfully high.
In November, Baldwin Park High student Luis Estrada, 14, and his father Pedro were gunned down by four attackers in front of their home in the 4000 block of Downing Avenue.
Three teens, all former Baldwin Park students, have been arrested in the case, officials said. A fourth remains at large. Gang rivalry apparently motivated the incident.
As they did in the Estrada case, school administrators promised Monday to provide grief counseling to anyone who needed it at Baldwin Park High School.
“The school will of course do something for the students who need the services,” said Lynne Kennedy, associate superintendent for student achievement in the Baldwin Park district.
Although there is absolutely no indication that Perez had gang ties, it’s pretty clear his attackers used gang tactics. Witnesses said the men drove slowly north on Maine Avenue. They flipped a U-turn, drove up to Perez and opened fire.
Because Perez had only just enrolled at Baldwin Park, and was killed on a Saturday night far away from campus, Kennedy claimed the slaying reflects more on the community at large than on the high school.
“You have to expect these things,” she said. “There’s crime in the city and there’s going to be fall over to students who attend the school.”
Kennedy also claimed that there is no gang problem at Baldwin Park High School, even as she pointed to the city’s tenacious problem with three notorious groups.
This morning (as I do most mornings) I know I’ll drive along Puente Avenue past Baldwin Park High on my way to work.
I’ll watch the kids pass and wonder who is going to college? Who is going to Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Who is going to get married, settle down in town and raise another generation of students?
I’ll have another question on my mind this morning though: Who will be the next name in my casualty count?