Three young brothers were found stabbed to death and covered in blood inside an SUV in South Los Angeles today, and their father, who is suspected of killing them, was taken to a hospital suffering from critical stab wounds.
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said the three boys ranged in age from 8 to 12.
Police responded around 7 a.m. to an SUV parked in the 300 block of East 32nd Street on a report of an assault with a deadly weapon, Beck said. The three boys were found dead in the back seat, while the father was found bloodied and suffering from stab wounds, police said.
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A man who works near the scene said he was walking by the SUV and saw the man in the front seat, and he appeared to have blood on him. He said as he approached the vehicle, he saw a boy he believed to be about 7 or 8 years old — motionless with his eyes wide open and covered in blood. The man said he then noticed at least one other body in the back seat, and he saw what appeared to be a box-cutter in the vehicle.
Beck confirmed that a knife was recovered at the scene.
Police said the father is suspected of killing the three children, and they were not searching for any other suspects.
"The biological mother of the children we believe to be deceased. We believe there is a stepmother and she is safe," Beck said. "These are horrific incidents,'' Beck said. "These are incidents that scar not only a community but the first responders who have to handle them. It is a sad day in Los Angeles, made only slightly better by the fact that we have a probable suspect in custody."
The bodies were found near Dolores Huerta Elementary School, but the children did not attend that school.
Los Angeles Unified School District Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King said the kids were all students in LAUSD schools, but she declined to identify them.
"The schools they attended have been notified, and crisis counselors have been provided," King said.
Police did not identify the father or the boys. A memorial set up by family members, however, identified the boys as Luis, Alex and Juan Fuentes.
Residents in South Los Angeles held a memorial Wednesday night for the slain brothers at 32nd Street near the scene where they were found dead.
Family members said they were shocked to learn from police that the father allegedly murdered his two sons.
"He loved his kids and it's hard for me to see him do something like this. It's unbelievable. I don't know what drove him to do something like this," said Rene Chanquin, the father's cousin.
Xiomora Mena, the boys' aunt, said the father and his new wife had gotten into an argument, and she begged him not to take the boys. The boys' mother died of an anuerysm in 2008.
The killings occurred amid a rash of deadly violence in South Los Angeles that police have attributed to a raging war between rival gangs. Police have responded by sending more officers from the LAPD's elite Metropolitan Division into the area.
"I take this personally," said City Councilman Curren Price, who represents the area. "I live right around the corner, and I pass this way many times, been to the school many times. And to know that the kids that are back and forth here -- full of life, full of vibrancy -- and that these three are gone.
"We're going to be working closely with the community, with the police, others in the community to create a fund in memory of these youngsters and provide some support to the family and we ask the community to join us providing resources as a way of expressing our condolences but also providing assistance for the future."
An online fundraiser has been set up for the children. Anyone wishing to donate can do so here.