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
"When something like that happens, you instantly drain all your resources and end up playing catch-up the rest of the night," said Sergeant Roberts. "The pursuit created a domino effect that backed up the patrol cars." Dozens of other calls had to be attended to before police could respond to the ruckus at Newton Street.
When a patrol car finally pulled up to check on the house, it was filled with more than 200 partiers at full tilt. The surrounding streets were lined with cars. While the officers were waiting for the party-suppression detail to show up, partygoers began running from the scene. A few told officers that someone had been shot.
What happened inside was as banal as it was unfortunate. After a while, Cobian had struck up a conversation with a girl. Her boyfriend took exception and started to beef with Cobian. According to friends, Cobian backed off. It is not clear how the conflict escalated, but by the time the cops finally went into the house, there was nothing left of the party except 3-by-5 photocopied fliers and empty beer bottles littering the floor, DJ gear, kegs of beer and bottles of tequila, a broken window in the back where the organizers had gained entrance, and Peter Cobian, dead in the living room, the victim of a bullet to the back of the head. The fun-loving giant was pronounced dead by paramedics at 1:25 a.m.
"His mother told him not to go," said Cobian’s father, Jose, a mechanic with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. "He knew of the dangers, but he was young. He wanted to go out and live. It was Saturday night. He took a chance and it was a bad chance."
Statistics would seem to bear out Jose’s sentiment. So far, 13 people have died from gunshot wounds at so-called flier parties in L.A. County this year alone. One of the worst instances yet of flier-party violence occurred just last Saturday when police tried to break up a South Los Angeles flier party. According to Captain Kenneth Garner, of the LAPD’s 77th Division, police received a complaint about a party at an old pool hall at Broadway and 84th Street just before 11 p.m. Saturday. Responding officers told the DJs to shut down the party. Soon after the closure was announced, a hail of gunfire rang through the old building. Before Officer Mario Cardona shot him to death, alleged gang member Jeremy Andre Cervantes shot Cardona and three partygoers. Cardona is in stable condition after being hit in the stomach. Two of the partiers are in critical condition, and one is stable, after being shot by the 19-year-old Cervantes. Police found happy balloons, alcohol and marijuana at the party and claimed kids as young as 13 were in attendance. They said the shooting started with a fight over a woman. Last February, at another flier party at the very same location, police shot and killed 20-year-old Rigoberto Vaca, who was shooting at a kid outside the building when they arrived on the scene.
Of the 13 victims of flier-party violence this past year, 11 were Latino, six were teenagers, and one was only 12 years old. Six of the 13 deaths were at house parties. Party crews held all but four. In most cases, police believe that the shooters were gang members.
"I think [these parties] are insane," said 77th Division Homicide Detective Jay Moberly. "Anyone who would let their kids go is nuts. These gang parties and raves seem to be tied together. There are some quarrels about who is going to sell what at the parties. It often comes down to a dispute over who is going to control the happy balloons, who is going to sell the booze for $2 a shot. They are just bad news. The obvious answer is closer parental control, but that doesn’t seem to be working too well. A lot of these things have a sexual overtone to them. We get wind of them. We should shut them down before they start, but they will just go to another location.
"It’s a big issue. I don’t know what the answer is."
In some parts of the country, the term "flier party" is synonymous with a rave. In Southern California, though, a flier party usually refers to a big party at someone’s house, advertised by fliers passed out at high schools, record stores and malls. Admission to the parties is usually anywhere from $3 to $5. They attract partygoers from the ages of 15 to 26.
For some teenagers, flier parties are just a part of high school life. They are a chance to hang out and meet new friends. Kids are looking for that outlaw adventure, and they go to parties for the thrill of it.
"I see students handing out fliers at least two or three times a month," said Reana Garcia, a junior at Franklin High School. "A lot of the kids are from other schools and pass them out at lunch or after school."
But not all flier parties are alike. Some are low-key and held by teenagers at their homes — usually when their parents are away — or in halls, usually to celebrate a birthday or graduation. The main goal is to just hang out with friends and maybe make a few bucks. The more elaborate parties, such as the one Peter Cobian attended in Sylmar, are organized by party crews who throw parties on the weekends at rented homes or in abandoned buildings and residences, usually without the consent of the property owners. The party crews operate under the radar of the police, go by names like "Sick Balling," "Mastermind," "The Incomparables" and "Los Alegres," and are open to everyone. Some estimate that there are dozens of party crews in L.A. County with thousands of dedicated fans.