By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Yet there is more darkness to come.
On Sunday, October 8, a car full of TMCs drives into Cuatro Flats territory. Most of Cuatro is attending a wedding away from the projects, and the TMC interlopers know this. They have not come to shoot, but to tag. In a matter of minutes, they spray-paint out all the CF graffiti they can find and replace it with their own. On the surface, the tagging sounds like a prank. But in gang terms, it is ominously provocative.
Just before 6 p.m., the Cuatro homeboys return and are predictably outraged. Five of them plus a driver pile into someone’s van and drive to 122 S. Clarence St., the house where the twins live with Martha Campos, their mother, and where the TMCs habitually gather.
It’s Santa Ana season, and the night is warm. Residents linger outdoors, a cluster of TMCs among them. The Cuatro homeboys exit the van, creep in and open fire. The TMCs scramble for cover. One 19-year-old named Ray Hernandez — Ray-Ray — is hit and goes down. Another bullet flies much farther up the street, striking a 10-year-old girl who is riding her bicycle on the sidewalk in front of her parents’ house.
Fulgencio Estrada, a TMC homeboy who was one of the taggers, races to where the child has fallen, thinking to help her somehow, but his ministrations prove irrelevant. The little girl, a pretty, dark-haired third-grader named Stephanie Raygoza, is dead by the time she reaches White Memorial Hospital.
Ray-Ray is not taken to the hospital. Instead, his body remains on the pavement until well after midnight while the homicide detectives put up yellow tape and map out angles of trajectory. As the hours wear on, more and more TMC homeboys gather to drink and steal glances at Ray-Ray’s motionless form, their expressions teetering between misery and threat. Ray-Ray’s father is also out on the sidewalk, also drinking. He flutters like a gangly, grief-stricken moth at the periphery of the taped area, sometimes hollering in the officers’ direction. "Pick him up! Pick him up!" he yells without effect at the police, his arms thrown repeatedly in jerky, balletic movements toward heaven. ä
In the days to follow, the Pico-Aliso community goes into shock. "My daughter is in the same class with that little girl," says Arnold Machado. "Now she’s worried to go outside. And my wife and mother-in-law won’t let me walk to the corner to the market, unless one of them goes with me. I hope they get the guys who did this," he says. "I really hope they do."
The murder of the little girl jolts city officials to action in a way the death of Roman Gonzalez did not. Within days, speed bumps are installed along Clarence Street — an approach to gang violence that Father Boyle finds about as effective as dousing a burning house with a squirt gun. More to the point, two teams of homicide investigators are assigned to the case, and as with Chief Parks’ granddaughter, funds are quickly allocated to pay for officers to work overtime. By October 18, detectives have arrested the driver of the van that allegedly brought the gunmen to Clarence Street, a young woman who has no previous record. A deal is struck. She confesses and names the five shooters.
Detective Herman believes that one of the five also shot Roman. "But I still can’t prove it," he says. "Not that I’m giving up. I never give up."
On Thursday, October 19, City Councilman Nick Pacheco holds a press conference in the middle of the street between the spots where Ray-Ray and Stephanie Raygoza were killed. Just before it is to begin, Mayor Richard Riordan makes a condolence visit to the Raygoza family, several TV cameras trailing behind him. After pledging to lower violence in the city, Riordan and Pacheco announce that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the murder suspects. A clean-cut detective carts out a large piece of white poster board, the surface of which is covered with an equally large sheet of paper. With a grim flourish, he unveils the board, exposing five 8-by-10 head shots, one of each of the alleged killers. The cameras zoom in for close-ups.
Father Boyle is out of town and so unable to attend the press conference, but Cara Gould is there. For days now, she and Boyle have been putting together a mental list of which Cuatro homeboys are most likely to have been the shooters.
When the faces are revealed, Gould takes in a single sharp breath and walks abruptly down the street until she can regain control of herself. "Two of those pictures weren’t a surprise to me," she says. "But the other three . . ." She swipes at her eyes miserably. "One of them asked me to be his sponsor when he made his first communion in juvenile probation camp. Another one of them couldn’t read very well, so I used to work with him one-on-one, at secret times and locations, so no one would know. Now all their lives are effectively over too. Oh, God," Gould says. "I just can’t stand it."