L.A. Park shooting at softball game aimed at peace – OlxPraca

By Stephanie Dezio

Los Angeles (AP)

A weekly softball game that has for years served to promote peace among Los Angeles-area gangs was hit by gunfire over the weekend that left two people dead and six wounded.

More than 500 people were at Peck Park in the city’s San Pedro neighborhood Sunday afternoon to watch softball teams play, barbecue with family and friends, and show off and check out low-rider vehicles.

Just before 4 p.m., an argument between two men escalated into a gunfight that spilled onto the softball diamond. A barrage of shots was fired as people scrambled for cover.

“All of a sudden we heard three shots – pow, pow, pow,” witness Dwayne Ellis told KABC. “Then we heard about 50 or 100 more — pow, pow, boom, boom. All kinds of shots. People were running.”

Two people who were shot died in hospital, while four women and two other men are in stable condition. No names were released and no arrests were made.

According to gang interventionist Skip Townsend, a local nonprofit organized a softball league about five years ago to safely bring members of various crime sets together. Sunday’s game — just weeks after the league’s founder died in a car wreck — was between teams from Compton.

“It broke my heart,” Townsend, who often attends games, told The Associated Press on Monday. “We have these types of incidents so we don’t have shootings.”

On Sunday afternoon, Townsend and other community leaders were a few miles from the park, participating in the monthly “Peace Ride” to promote solidarity in high-crime areas. A day later, Townsend was left to wonder if the violence could have been prevented if he and the others had been in the park.

He said he would have told the fighters: “You’re not going to do it here. You’re not going to ruin what we have.”

Police have offered few details about the shooting, saying only that it was “gang-related” and happened at a sanctioned softball game after some sort of dispute. Investigators have not yet determined how many people fired the shots.

Several guns were recovered from the location and recovered as evidence, officials said.

“It’s a Sunday afternoon, you should go to the park and enjoy yourself,” said LAPD Capt. Kelly Muniz, a police spokeswoman.

Officials said five people were initially injured and taken to the hospital by paramedics, but authorities later learned that a sixth victim had gone to the hospital in a private vehicle.

Peck Park is about 20 miles (32 km) south of downtown Los Angeles. Councilman Joe Buscino represents the area and has pushed for a measure to allow Los Angeles park rangers to carry firearms starting in 2020.

“Recreation staff on site can identify potential problems and coordinate with park rangers,” Buscino said.

Townsend said softball games are usually positive events, adding that before Sunday there had been only one homicide from the league in its five years.

“It’s not indicative of what happens in the park every Sunday,” he said.