From the entry wound — the size of a nickel — Dr. Brant Putnam guesses that the bullet is a .45, but it's what he can't see that worries him most.

The boy, a teenager most likely, lies naked on Bed 2 in a trauma bay at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. His brown skin, slick with sweat, is ashen.

"What's your name?" a resident asks as half a dozen doctors and nurses circle him.

The boy can't answer.

"Ohhh," he moans.

"How old are you, sir?"


The boy's hipbones delicately protrude from his narrow waist. He has a woman's name tattooed down his right arm from elbow to wrist and the bullet hole is to the right of his navel.

Putnam, chief of trauma, stands back and watches and listens. He is puzzled that the wound is hardly bleeding.

"Sit up for me."


There is no sign of an exit wound.

"Hey. Wake up."

A resident slaps the boy. They need him conscious.

Putnam knows the surge of adrenaline that brought the boy this far is nearly spent. If his blood pressure crashes, his heart will stop. Putnam wonders if it is too late.

"Let's go to the OR," he says, loud enough to get everyone's attention.


The season of shootings has begun on time. Last year, from July through September, this Torrance hospital treated 107 gunshot victims, the highest number in the county.

This year, four GSWs — medical shorthand for gunshot wounds — arrived on the first day of summer. One was a suicide and three were assaults. Three died and one would probably be discharged in a few days.

Now, on June 23, two more have come in, both teenagers, both assaults. They walked through the front door at 2:25 a.m., no EMTs, no police. The hospital staff calls it the homeboy ambulance service: patients brought in with injuries often from gang shootings.