10/10/2006

L.A. Police: Gang members intentionally shot toddler

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 3-year-old girl gunned down in her driveway was targeted in a callous attack by gang members, who mistakenly thought her father was a member of a rival group, authorities said.

Kaitlyn Avila died Oct. 1 when two men pulled up in front of her family's apartment and one shot her point blank.

"This wasn't an accident or case of her getting caught in the fire," police Deputy Chief Charles Beck said Monday. "He intended to kill her. This was a callous killing. It is beyond even what gangsters consider usual."

Beck said the killer approached Kaitlyn, father Cesar Avila and her 6-year-old sister as they were getting out of their car after a trip to McDonald's. He wounded Cesar Avila, erroneously believing that he was a member of a rival gang, then shot Kaitlyn once in the chest, police said.

A joint task force of the LAPD and FBI has arrested one suspect, the alleged driver. But the 17-year-old suspected triggerman, Jonathan Banks, was still being sought.

Beck said the shooting underscored continued gang problems in the southwest Los Angeles neighborhood of Baldwin Village. Two warring gangs occupy the area: the Black P-Stones, a mostly black gang, and 18th Street, a mostly Latino gang.

The victims were Latino and the assailants were black, police officials said.

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