Monday, December 07, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

They didn’t rescue someone from a burning house or pull them out of a car wreck. They aren’t cops or firefighters. They are, however, my latest local heroes in San Pedro.

They did it simply by this -- speaking out when no one else did and arranging one of the first public meetings in my memory about the shooting deaths of children in our community.

As someone who has tracked the yearly violent deaths of children here, I feared that once again the brazen Sunday morning shooting of 17-year-old Geisslar “Michael” Alfaro last month would slip into the same ugly abyss along with the other murdered children in this community.

It seems we -- as a community -- have come to tolerate that at least one youth annually is shot down in our streets – often in the light of the day -- and as the deaths seem to pile up; they are quickly forgotten. The media fails to show up. Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn doesn’t appear to demand change. And our residents failed to make a scene – until now.

Central Neighborhood Council President John Delgado and Vice President, Andrew Silber, scheduled an emergency public meeting on Alfaro’s shooting and plan to demand more officers from the city of Los Angeles Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Center, 510 W. SeventhStreet.

Calling Alfaro’s shooting “disgusting,” an angry Silber, owner of the Whale & Ale Restaurant, said he’s irritated that San Pedro has lost scores of officers to other areas – and now wants “to make sure we are getting our fair share.”

“It strikes me as all of this is just acceptable,” said Silber. “Well, I’m not going to turn over and accept this. We are supposed to be living in a civilized society. A law abiding citizen has the right to walk the street. He (Alfaro) was walking on foot when he was injured and they finished him off with a bullet between a high school and middle school.

"Why has San Pedro lost 44 officers in the last 18 months?”

Alfaro was killed Nov. 22, on a sunny Sunday morning, while on an errand to buy some goods at a local store, his friends and family said. An argument erupted in an alley where two men, both brothers, chased Alfaro and shot him down near Cabrillo Avenue and 18th Streets. The two men were later arrested and one was released. Police called Alfaro's death senseless and unrelated to anything he had done. Alfaro was not a gang member, officers said.

In the meantime, his blood still stains the street.

“I was hurt when I heard about the shooting,” said Central Neighborhood Council President John Delgado. “I’m very saddened for the family and the child. It just looks like this kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s terrible that we have this going on and there seems no solution.

“We want to be there to let the family know that it’s not in vain. Our goal is to get more police officers.”

I applaud that these two men for caring and being some of the first residents to start asking serious questions. Sitting in the living room with Alfaro's family and friends -- still stunned by his death -- was so painful for me and I knew I couldn't even begin to understand their agony. The boy they described had befriended just about everyone, from nerds to gang members, and was nicknamed “Batman” after his favorite super hero.

His closest friends and family members described Alfaro as a kid who would dance anywhere any time – with or without music – and who loved to play with younger children. His motto in life was: "Be a happy camper." In particular, he teased everyone that babies liked him more than anyone else – and was already planning his future with longtime girlfriend, Kenya Broadnax. Many women, including Kenya's mother, considered Alfaro like their own son.

Alfaro had dated Kenya, 18, for five years and they planned to marry and have children once the two graduated from an independent studies high school program.

An unpublished car wash attracted hundreds of people and raised more than $5,000 in two days to pay for Alfaro’s funeral services – where again – residents flowed in from all over San Pedro. Some people had to stand at the funeral, friends said.

Unfortunately, the day before Thanksgiving, while these family members should have been whipping up mashed potatoes and preparing pumpkin pie -- instead they sat stoically in a small apartment clustered together in a protective circle and trying to cope with this tragic loss of a young man. Nothing can wash away the amount of despair and the ripples this kid’s death will have on the hundreds who knew him. As the family struggled not to cry, so did I.

But perhaps, I have to say, we should all be crying. Many of us probably think, this won’t happen to our own kid or a kid we know. Then we should remind ourselves where Alfaro was shot to death – an area trekked everyday by hundreds of students pouring in and out of Dana Middle and San Pedro High schools

I've heard time and time again from officers how lucky we are compared to other areas of Los Angeles. San Pedro has less crime and fewer murders.

That may be so. But it also means we don't want to catch up to those areas either. We must take a stance.