By Hillel Aron
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Police admit that they are usually the last ones to know when there is a flier party and generally only find out about the event after they receive a disturbance call from neighbors or if someone has been shot.
"It is a rapidly changing environment. It is like trying to hit a moving target," said Sergeant Roberts. "There are a lot of them, and they come and go. You hear names of party crews once, and then you don’t hear them for a while."
LAPD officers also complain that they are stretched thin, which makes party-related disturbance calls less of a priority.
"We go by priorities. There is a scale. Obviously, if a life is in danger, we go down from there and a loud party is not at the top of the list," said Sergeant Roberts. "We don’t have enough people. We are so undermanned that we are sometimes putting fires out."
Often by the time police do get there, the party has broken up. Typically, those who don’t split before the cops get there are reluctant to talk. "There is almost no cooperation from the gang community, and the people who are there are intimidated by the gangs and fear retaliation," said Captain Ray Peavey of the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau.
Many cities in L.A. and Orange counties have specific municipal codes making it illegal to charge admission for any private party, to provide alcohol for minors or to create amplified sound that carries more than 150 feet from the property. At best, law enforcement passes out fines for such code violations.
One grieving West Covina mother is doing what she can to spread the word about the flier parties. Margaret Ramirez has gone to juvenile detention centers to talk to the kids about the dangers. Last year, Ramirez filed a civil lawsuit against L.A. homeowner Maria Carreon, after Ramirez’s 17-year-old son, Antonio, died at a flier party thrown by Carreon’s son on September 14, 2002.
At the time, Ramirez was a senior West Covina High School wrestler who was looking forward to a career in the Air Force. He told his mother that he was going to the L.A. County Fair with friends. Instead, he and his two friends ended up at Carreon’s La Puente home on Vineland Avenue, along with over 100 other students who were given fliers at a high school football game earlier that day. Ramirez and his friends were at the party less than 30 minutes when gunfire erupted in the backyard. According to L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Karen Shonka, four gang members showed up and started bumping shoulders with other young people, which led to a fistfight. Two gang members then fired into the crowd, wounding four people and killing 20-year-old Arturo Cisneros. Ramirez and his two friends were running down the street to escape when the shooters drove by and fired numerous rounds into Ramirez.
In the lawsuit, Margaret Ramirez argued that Maria Carreon was responsible for what took place in her La Puente home even though she wasn’t home at the time of the party. Ramirez settled the case last month for $3,000.
"His life was worth more than that," she said. "Today, I sit back and look at funeral pictures and you never think it will happen to you. He never had a girlfriend. He never went out. It was unfair he had to get killed and no one wants to be accountable for it."
On November 3, more than 200 friends and family members attended Peter Cobian’s funeral at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Eagle Rock. He was remembered affectionately as the type of guy who on Christmas Eve would sneak out the back door and then run around and knock on the front door and pretend he was Santa Claus.
"He was big and strong," said his cousin Monica Castilla. "He was like Santa Claus."
He would also eat 21 mini–Snickers bars in one sitting.
Cobian’s father, Jose, holds out hope that his son’s killer will be brought to justice. "One day I will hopefully know. I think they will catch the guy, and if he is not caught, when he sees Jesus he will deal with him at that time. If you do wrong, you will have to reap what you sow. My son had that honesty. I trusted him completely, and I regret that I didn’t spend more time with him."