Two especially tragic shootings pierced through the Fourth of July fireworks last night in South L.A. — only 10 minutes apart and five miles away.
We already reported this morning that 25-year-old Dennis Tillet was murdered around 10:30 p.m. while celebrating the Fourth of July with a group of people in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Now, an even younger Independence Day shooting victim has been identified:
14-year-old Unique Russell, who was reportedly watching fireworks and playing with friends outside her grandma's home near 97th Street and Normandie Avenue when she was shot down at 10:20 p.m.
The street was “loaded with children,” reports KTLA, when witnesses say two gunmen opened fire — possibly from inside a nearby van.
Russell's cousin tells the station that the next thing he knew, he saw the 14-year-old “laying [in the street], she didn't look like she was breathing and wasn't moving. We saw someone [shot] in the yard and someone else laying next to her.”
Like in the Tillet murder, two other victims standing near Russell were injured when the shooters apparently fired indiscriminately into the crowd. City News Service reports that a 12-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man are hospitalized in unknown condition.
Around 3 p.m. that same day, Russell reminded everyone to be safe on Twitter:
Happy 4th of July everybody be safe
— Unique (@PlainOleUnique) July 4, 2012
The victim's Facebook page says she's “in a relationship” and attends Washington Preparatory High School, located just one mile from the crime scene in unincorporated Westmont.
A kid on Twitter named Antony, who says he was her boyfriend, writes to Russell: “u my baby 4 ever evon tho u gone im getting yo name tated on my arm i love u.”
As of this morning, a motive for her murder was unknown. Anyone with more information about the crime was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.
Update, 2 p.m.: According to the Los Angeles Times, last night was mayhem in South L.A.:
Los Angeles police responded to at least eight shootings — including two homicides — during a six-hour period overnight in South L.A., where a modified tactical alert was called when police were pelted with lighted fireworks and other objects by reputed gang members.