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Photo via laparks.org.

Tragic San Pedro Shooting Occurred During Softball Game Promoting Peace Among Street Gangs

Over 50 shots punctured the serenity of a Sunday afternoon at Peck Park in San Pedro this week, leaving eight people (four women and five men) wounded. Thirty-one-year-old Tashman “Taz” Williams and 29-year-old Carlyle Phillips both died from their injuries at the hospital.

Hundreds of people were reportedly gathered in the sprawling park, which features a swimming pool, baseball diamond, and hiking trails, among other public amenities. Initial headlines in the wake of the tragedy appeared to point fingers at an adjoining car show happening at Peck during the afternoon hour when shots were first fired (shortly before 4 PM), reportedly originating in the vicinity of the baseball diamond. Early police reports said the shooting was potentially gang-related.

An update from the AP suggests that the shooting occurred against the backdrop of a few events intended to promote peace in the community, notably a weekly softball game organized by local non-profits, including R.A.C.E. (Reclaiming America’s Communities through Empowerment), to encourage dialogue and harmony between South L.A. street gangs.

Sunday’s game, which was reportedly organized between Crip sets in Compton, followed the death of Reynaldo Reaser, R.A.C.E.’s founder and executive director, in a car crash on the 405 Freeway in Carson in early June.

According to the report, the game or the gangs themselves didn’t play a role in sparking the shootings. However, a “dispute” between two individuals turned into a “gunfight that spilled over onto the softball diamond.”

LAPD Captain Adrian Gonzalez reported to a City Council meeting on Tuesday night: “It wasn’t a team-on-team versus each other. It wasn’t a gang-on-gang versus each other. It was a couple of individuals that we have identified who had a dispute, and they decided to bring it to the park on Sunday afternoon… It was very specific individuals who were either participating in the… game or were there as spectators who were involved in the dispute.”

According to a witness, dozens of shots began popping off, causing a rush of people to run away from the gunfire, some hiding in a ditch to avoid being struck, and one of the two victims who later died being shot while attempting to flee in a car.

Andre Pierson, the V.P. of the National Low Rider Association, told KABC there were “People running everywhere, trying to drive to get out. Wrecking, bumping cars… I’ve been in gang intervention for a long time, and that’s one of the most horrific scenes I’ve seen.”

Cpt. Gonzalez said the shooting “spilled over” into a parking lot above the baseball field and also at a park entrance, where a few people were shot while fleeing the tragedy. Police recovered four handguns amid the three different scenes, as well as over 50 shells, while currently, no one is in custody for the calamity. Police are promising to increase patrols in the park and its surroundings.

Cornell “Coach” Ward, of the Southern California CeaseFire Committee, told The L.A. Times he believes the friction and resulting violence may be the result of internal disputes that are something “like a Civil War” inside the Santana Blocc Compton Crips.

Skipp Townsend, the former Blood and well-known gang interventionist, was heading in the direction of the park among a Peace Ride convoy, shown here on his video, and told AP the day following the shooting, “It broke my heart… we have these type of events, so we don’t have shootings.”

On Tuesday, distraught neighbors gathered at the park and expressed their anger to police over unsafe conditions there, with one reportedly being applauded after saying, “Peck Park has been an issue. Not only on Sunday, but it has also been an issue for years, and you need police presence. It’s not a safe place for young families.”

Nonetheless, following Sunday’s shooting, the city has decided to cancel all summer Sunday events at Peck Park, snuffing all existing and potential permits. Saturday events, which are booked at a greater number, can still go on as planned.

Considering the quoted neighbor specified that Sunday wasn’t exactly the issue here, whether or not keeping Sunday events, including ones promoting peace, out of the park will put any kind of substantial-end to such bloodshed remains to be seen. Meanwhile, gang interventionists say they are attempting to stop retribution stemming from Sunday’s heartbreaking violence.

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