Gun violence peaks in 15 years in Los Angeles, claiming lives and erasing hard-won gains

Since then, Basquez has been back and forth between her home and the hospital and a convalescence center where her son, who she says did not want to comment, is now staying. She’s trying to find a way to raise enough money to buy the medical equipment he’ll need to get home, including a special motorized bed that sells, second-hand, for thousands of dollars.

Like Reynolds’ mother and many other families of Los Angeles shooting victims, Basquez has launched a GoFundMe page to ask friends and strangers to help defray the unthinkable costs of such violence. Some need help with medical bills or lost wages for injured loved ones. Some need help paying for the funeral.

Basquez said she was grateful that her son survived but saddened by his injuries, devastated for the other mothers she knows in San Pedro whose sons are gone forever, and frustrated at the lack of attention such Shootings do get in the city – especially when they involve blacks and Latino children and aren’t in the city’s wealthier neighborhoods.

“I feel like I’m living a nightmare, like one day I’m going to wake up and hope it’s just over,” she said. “It’s just a lot of losses.”

Dr Kenji Inaba, chief of trauma care and critical surgical care at Los Angeles County Medical Center-USC, said that County-USC – one of more than a dozen trauma centers in County of LA – treated 398 gunshot victims last year, an increase of over 30% from the 296 treated in 2019.

This year, the hospital had treated 381 gunshot victims by the end of August and surpassed the end-of-year 2020 total by September, said Inaba, who did not yet have complete data for 2021.

“The numbers are definitely on the rise,” he said. “Any day we could operate on a gunshot wound and literally the pagers – they’re phones now – they ring and another shot or two or three gunshot wounds can happen. “

It’s hard and rewarding work, he said – but also extremely trying, especially since COVID-19 has already left hospital workers “mentally and physically exhausted”.

With gunshot wounds, surgical teams have to “find out what’s wrong, what the gunshot wound has destroyed and how to put it back together” at lightning speed, said Inaba.

Inaba associates this knowledge with what he sees when he works several times a month as the LAPD reserve officer, when he responds to patrol calls and sees with his own eyes the kind of human dramas and anger. that precipitate the shots, he said.

He wonders if, if others saw what he saw, they would take the proliferation of guns in LA and elsewhere in the United States more seriously.

“No one should ever be shot,” Inaba said, “and yet we are seeing hundreds and hundreds of these patients being shot.”

Around these victims – and perpetrators – are thousands of others whose lives are shaken.

Lindsay Ratkovich lives not far from a Ralphs grocery store in Mid-Wilshire where, until last summer, she would often stop to speak with Eva Fekete, a woman in her sixties who lived there in her home. car and sometimes in a tent with his companion. , an older man she fiercely protected.

The couple never caused any problems, Ratkovich said, and were greeted well by many locals. Fekete remembered the names of the neighbors and discussed their lives and children with them, said Ratkovich, and the neighbors in turn looked after her, bringing her and her companion food, clean clothes. and other necessities.

Then, one day in June, Fekete allegedly shot and killed a homeless man in his forties before taking off in his car. Ratkovich said Fekete called her on the phone as she was on the run, too scared to say much but in need of a friend to have online.

Fekete had had Social Security and pandemic relief money stolen shortly before the shooting, Ratkovich said, and she believes Fekete shot the young man in self-defense during a shooting. attempted theft or assault. Nonetheless, Fekete was arrested and charged with murder. She pleaded not guilty.

The murder was one of dozens this year in Los Angeles that the victims were not staying in. It was also, in the minds of Ratkovich and many other neighbors who advocated for Fekete’s release, a tragic incident that in more than one way exposed the vulnerability of the homeless population of LA.

“I know it was self-defense,” Ratkovich said of the shooting. “Of all the people who are thrown and dumped, the fact that Eva is considered a major criminal is beyond comprehension.”

Ratkovich said the incident shook his faith in LA and its leadership.

For Reynolds, who was shot for his PlayStation, the violence of 2021 left lasting scars – and not just physical – but also pushed him forward.

Reynolds was an honor roll student who had previously earned college-level credits and was due to attend Penn State University soon when he was shot. He is, in all respects, a good boy. His manager vouched for him when the police came to ask questions, and now the police are vouching for him too.

“Sean is an extraordinary young man with so much promise,” said LAPD deputy head Emada Tingirides, who oversees the LAPD Community Safety Partnership Office, got to know Reynolds after the shooting and attended a special high school graduation ceremony for him in his hospital room.

Yet after his shooting, Reynolds had people – even a teacher – suggesting he must have been tied up in a gang for being shot, he said. Others, including the medical staff, suggested that he was something of an exception among shooting victims because he was such a good kid.

These reactions stuck with Reynolds and his mother, who are black and found them racist.

“Being a black man, they’ll assume that’s something I could have done” to cause the shooting, Reynolds said.

“Why isn’t he just a victim, which he would have been if he hadn’t been a young African American boy?” Her mother wondered.

Partly because of those flawed assumptions, Reynolds said, he’s tired of telling people about the shooting, in which a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old were each convicted of theft and his recovery. He looks forward to the day when he can tell them instead of all of his other accomplishments – which he has already planned.

Due to all the college courses he continued to take throughout his recovery, he will already have upper class status each time he enters college, which he hopes. be in 2022, he said with a smile on a recent afternoon, as his mother beamed.

From there, his goal is to get into a top law school and then a top law firm.

“I wish it was a tiny part of my life,” Reynolds said of her shoot, “and the rest were more positive.”


This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.