A walk down Figueroa turns deadly for two Highland Park teens

Carlos Hernandez would have turned 16 yesterday but but there was no celebration for the Highland Park teenager. Instead, there was only grief and many unanswered questions as to why Hernandez and friend Alejandro Garcia, 16, were gunned down on Figueroa Street on Friday afternoon. Police found the two Franklin High School teens bleeding on the sidewalk shortly after 3:30 p.m. in front of a small park near the Highland Park Recreation Center and the river rock walls of the Arroyo Seco Library. They died from their wounds at a hospital.

Witnesses said the boys were confronted by someone who came from the park. A fight broke out and other people joined in, said LAPD homicide detective Lisa Governo. There is a possible gang connection to the shooting but Hernandez and Garcia were not known gang members, Governo said. Instead, she believes it was a case where the two victims were challenged in one of those classic “Where are you from?” exchanges. The park, depending on who you talk to, is in either The Avenues or Dogtown gang territory, she said.

It’s been difficult to get information about the suspected shootings because witnesses fear gang retaliation, Governo said. There is only a vague description of the shooter, who fled on foot, as being as young as 12 or as old as 17. “No one has been arrested. We are still trying to talk to a lot of people.”

Word of the shooting spread quickly to nearby Franklin High School and Luther Burbank Middle School, which the two teens had also attended. Burbank principal John Samaniego rushed over to the park where he found Franklin principal Luis Lopez. Students from both campuses would have been walking past the park on their way home from school.

“He basically was hoping it wasn’t one of his kids and I was hoping it wasn’t one of mine,” said Samaniego.

Samaniego went back to park on Sunday to look for more answers given the relatively scant media coverage of the double-murder of two teenagers near a public library and park. “That’s what kind of bothered me,” said Samaniego.

But his own investigation yielded no information, leaving him and the rest of us to wonder why two teenage boys lost their lives on a Friday afternoon.

Anyone with information about this double murder is asked to call Northeast Homicide Detectives at 213-847-4261

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