Child Killing Sparks Action Against Los Angeles Gangs

THE killing of the blond, blue-eyed, toddler shocked America, from President Clinton on down.

Stephanie Kuhen was shot dead after the car she was in made a wrong turn late at night into a dead-end street that gun-toting gang members considered their turf.

Three or four members of the Hispanic "Avenues" gang began throwing trash cans as the car's driver tried desperately to turn around.

Then without warning, the shots rang out.

On Wednesday night, police arrested a reputed gang member suspected in the murder but on Friday three survivors of the ambush failed to identify him in a lineup. Police, who said they were still holding the first suspect, later arrested three more Friday night.

The murder, in a city where drive-by shootings are almost a daily occurrence, has stunned Los Angeles, prompting Mayor Richard Riordan to propose appointing a gang "czar" to combat a wave of violence that has seen 25 gang-related killings in the San Fernando Valley area alone since July.

"We've simply had enough. Angelenos are sick of these senseless acts of violence. I'm sick of them," Mr. Riordan told law-enforcement officials at a "gang summit" Thursday.

The proposed gang czar will work with the group to coordinate efforts by the various agencies combatting the violence of street gangs, which include not just the well-known black Crips and Bloods and the Latino gangs like the Avenues, but others from ethnic groups such as the Asian Boys.

"We talked about a systems approach to fighting crime, to integrate our crime-fighting operations from prosecution and arrest through the courts and through probation," said Riordan.

Police estimate there are 150,000 gang members in poor sections of Los Angeles County, engaging in everything from graffiti to drive-by murders. Police attribute 80 percent of the violent crimes in a 30-block area of South-Central Los Angeles to gangs.

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