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These Are the People Who Died

On November 27, LAPD officer Mario Cordona gunned down Jeremy Andre Cervantes, 19, after he shot Cordona and wounded three partygoers inside a flier party at an old pool hall at 84th Street and Broadway attended by 200 people. Officers were arranging with the party crew to shut down the event when gunfire erupted inside. The shooting was prompted by a dispute over a woman, according to Captain Kenneth Garner of the 77th Street Division. (See "Happy Balloons and Homicide.")

Highland Park resident Peter Cobian died on October 24 while attending a flier party put on by the Secret Society party crew at a vacant residential home in Sylmar. Cobian, 24, was shot in the back of the head after a verbal altercation with a fellow partygoer. Police have no suspects. (See "Happy Balloons and Homicide.")

Also in this issue:
Happy Balloons and Homicide
Entering the dangerous world of flier parties
by Christine Pelisek

When police arrived at 10:30 p.m. September 25 at the six-story office building at 833 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, they found a group of 100 young people gathered in the streets and on the sidewalks. A few minutes later, gunfire erupted from inside. Authorities estimate that more than 400 partygoers fled through the front entrance, while others climbed out broken windows to escape. Inside, detectives found beer bottles, two tanks and numerous balloons filled with nitrous oxide, fliers scattered on the floor, and the bodies of Gary Rivera and Jairo Gomez, both 17. They were shot to death.

On May 22, Mario Rojas, 16, was attending a flier party with 150 other partygoers at a dancehall on South San Pedro Street in L.A. when, according to police, Rojas, who had been hired to pass out the fliers for the party, got into an altercation in the bathroom. The fight continued on to the dance floor. Rojas was shot and killed.

On May 8, Antonio Vasquez, a 26-year-old resident of Panorama City, and Hector Villarreal, a 23-year-old resident of Lakeview Terrace, were assisting the DJ at a birthday party at 14684 Rex St. in Sylmar when they were killed by gang members. Police said over 150 partygoers were in attendance. The fliers were passed out at Sylmar High School. (See "Homicide and Happy Balloons.")

Seventeen-year-old Franklin High School student Benjamin Peña was gunned down after a fight broke out at his own parent-supervised house party in Highland Park on April 10. Three other partygoers were stabbed. (See "Homicide and Happy Balloons.")

On February 21, LAPD officers killed 20-year-old Rigoberto Vaca at 1:10 a.m. at a flier party at the same abandoned pool hall, at 84th and Broadway, where Jeremy Andre Cervantes was killed. Police confronted Vaca outside the building while he was chasing and shooting at a partygoer. He exchanged gunfire with officers and was subsequently shot in the head. ("See Homicide and Happy Balloons.")

Twelve-year-old Gregory Gabriel was shot dead on February 15, a short time after he sneaked out with friends during a sleepover to attend a flier party at the Western Club on Western Avenue. Gabriel was caught in a crossfire that left two others, a 13-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, in critical condition. Gabriel, who found out about the party from a 16-year-old friend at Manual Arts High School, was waiting in line when Carlos Argueta and Enrique Gonzalez, both 18, shot at Gabriel and friends after asking if they were gang members.

Argueta and Gonzalez are also believed to be responsible for the death of 24-year-old Inglewood resident Jorge Lua, who was killed a day earlier, on February 14, as he was driving past a flier party at a hall on West Manchester Avenue in Los Angeles at 1:15 a.m. Lua and two passengers were on their way to a friend’s house when a gunman walked up to their vehicle and shot Lua multiple times. Four other men and two women were also shot in the incident.

Humboldt State University student Terrell Sherrills, 19, was killed at a flier party in the affluent African-American community of Ladera Heights on January 10. The 100-plus partygoers were mostly private-high-school students, but according to the Sheriff’s Department, a group of 10 to 15 alleged Crip gang members showed up after their nearby party was shut down. The gang members, turned down at the door, made their way into the backyard and got into a fight with a partygoer. The 17-year-old host shut down the party, and Sherrills was shot in the driveway as he was leaving. The party hosts’ parents were away for the night.

Adrian Santoyo, 22, was the first flier-party murder victim of 2004 when he was killed outside a gang party in La Puente at 12:15 a.m. on January 1. Santoyo was outside drinking a beer with friends when he got involved in a fight with gang members. A Sheriff’s Department detective said that Santoyo was running from the gang members when he was shot twice, in the back and shoulder. Police said the party crew charged a $5 entrance fee. Police found fliers scattered on the floor inside the house. Santoyo had a 1-year-old daughter.


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