[Update: Detective Chris Barling, lead homicide investigator for the LAPD's 77th Street Division (the deadliest division in L.A. so far this year, with a staggering 42 homicides), told LA Weekly freelancer Michael Krikorian at the scene that “Nobody would target this kid. The total motive is that he is in the park.” For decades, the park has been a home to a local Bloods gang called the Harvard Park Brims. Anyone with information about Tuesday's shooting is urged to call detectives at (213) 485-1383. Donations to the victim's devastated family can be made at any Bank of America branch: Just give the teller the ID number 02363 42806, c/o Patrick Caruthers.]
A 19-year-old city volunteer with a learning disability was shot dead yesterday afternoon in broad daylight as kids played on the grass nearby.
Patrick Caruthers, also called Patrick Sears online by his friends, reportedly was sitting on a bench at Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center, where he had volunteered this summer at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Summer Night Lights program. The well-lit, late-night park hangouts around Los Angeles are intended to deter gang members who might otherwise use the public land as their stomping ground.
However, the 2012 season wrapped up earlier this month, and LAPD homicide detectives believe that Caruthers — although not a gang member himself — was shot by gangsters who mistook him for someone else.
“The victim was just sitting there on a park bench, and an unknown suspect came up to him and fired multiple rounds,” says LAPD Detective Chris Valento. “I believe he has some kind of mental learning disorder, but to my knowledge there's no gang affiliation on his side.”
Still, Valento adds, “Gangs do hang out at that park,” and Caruthers' shooter likely was a gang member. According to City News Service, the suspect was last seen sprinting to a dark sedan that had been waiting next to the park. The getaway vehicle then sped west on 62nd Street and south on Denker Avenue before it disappeared from sight.
Caruthers was reportedly a Manual Arts High School graduate who had begun attending classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
The 19-year-old Good Samaritan was known around his South L.A. neighborhood as a total sweetheart — an enemy to no one. “He was the one guy you would go to the park and see and he was always doing something positive,” Officer Gary Verge at LAPD's 77th Division tells the Los Angeles Times.
All through last night and this morning, friends have been mourning his death on Twitter. “The most painful thing was to watch the coroners truck drive off and see his mother go after it,” writes user @summer_kisses. And she later Tweets: “I don't think Patrick knew how much he was loved.”
Others are incredulous that anyone would mistake the lovable young man for a gang member. “I still can't believe these lame ass gang bangers like WTF an innocent boy smh,” writes @OsoKeepsIt_100.
“Harvard Park Ain't Gone Be The Same Without YOU!” she adds this morning.
A Times commenter named Toni Henderson describes the victim, who was friends with her children, as “the most Loving and Kind kid I had ever met. He always kept you laughing and when you were a person who treated him good he'd call you his family.”
In the CBS2 video report (embedded below), Caruthers' grief-stricken mother, Gail Sears, says that despite her son's disability, “he was determined to be functional and just be a person like everybody else.”