Maria Hicks lived in her quiet Pico Rivera neighborhood her whole life -- two houses down from her mother, and across the street from her daughter and three grandchildren.
She believed in keeping up the neighborhood, and few things bothered her more than newly scrawled graffiti.
On Friday night, police said, Hicks, 57, was driving home from visiting her sister in Whittier when she noticed a teenager spraying graffiti on a cinder-block wall two blocks from her house near San Gabriel River Parkway and Woodford Street.
Hicks honked her horn and flashed her lights at the teenager. As he walked away, she followed him in her car. Suddenly, another car pulled up behind her and someone fired several rounds through Hicks' rear windshield. She was struck in the back of the head and died Monday at a local hospital.
"You think about it, and my mom died over a can of spray paint," said Hicks' daughter, Melinda Wall, 34. "She was not one to hold her tongue. She felt strongly about keeping your community nice."
Sheriff's detectives arrested three people Wednesday in connection with Hicks' slaying, which has touched a nerve in Pico Rivera and beyond. Residents took part in a community candlelight vigil Wednesday night, and her death has sparked discussions in communities around Southern California dealing with a rise in graffiti and other gang-related vandalism.
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I was amazed a couple of weeks back with all the graffiti in New York, some of it in fact demonstrating tremendous creative artistry. But stories like this one remind me that graffiti is a sign of crime, social breakdown, and the loss of order in a community.
I send my condolences to the family, and hope and pray that her killers are brought to justice.