Lead Story West Edition

MOTHERS IN MOURNING: Women call for a halt to shootings, road rage in South L.A.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Three women who lost their sons to gun violence or road rage came together Sept. 6 to plead with the youth in South Los Angeles to stop the violence. 

The mothers, joined by Chapter TWO, an organization that provides gang prevention and intervention services, and Project Islamic HOPE, as well as other community residents and leaders, including LAPD Capt. Al Neal from the 77th Street Police Division, called for a stop in shootings and road rage incidents within the city.

“I am here today pleading with our young people to please stop killing your brothers and your sisters,” said J. Lakiesha Marshall, whose son Justin Logie, 19, was shot and killed March 20, 2015, at Florence Avenue and Main Street. “The mothers here are in pain. The streets are in rage, and we are asking you right now to come together as one and stop the killing. It is affecting the entire community.”

Sherie Bell’s son Jaylen Bell-Maxwell, 21, was killed in a road rage incident on Western Avenue in Gardena on Dec. 21, 2017. Bell-Maxwell, who had turned 21 on Dec. 9, was driving a motorcycle when driver Oscar Villa rammed him into a building, Bell said.

“He was on his motorcycle just headed to work on a normal day, and a guy killed him for no reason,” Bell said. “Now he is asking for the lowest time he can get.

“Stop running people over. Let the motorcyclist get through. They can’t do anything to hurt you. My son was not a violent person at all. … He didn’t do anything to hurt anybody. Just because somebody is mad at getting cut off or anything, don’t kill somebody just because somebody is not driving the perfect way.”

Demicha Lofton-Thomas said she was there to speak for other mothers that have lost their children to “senseless killings,” like her son Gerrik Thomas, 21, who was shot and killed on Jan. 25, 2016, at West 54th Street and Ninth Avenue in Hyde Park.

Lofton-Thomas claimed she would be a person to bring awareness to the neighborhood and help the families get justice, healing and peace after Lawanda Hawkins, whose son was killed in 1995, of Justice for Murdered Children called for more people to come forward.

“We don’t want no more families to join this organization,” Hawkins said. “We would like to see some public service announcements. I would like to see some campaigns about stop the killing, especially by those affected. It needs to come from them.”

Neal then spoke about standing in solidarity with the mothers and fathers that have lost children.

“It hurts my heart everytime I see one of these young African American, Hispanic males killed out here in the streets and have to notify their mothers and their mothers come to me and speak to me about the status of the investigation and what’s going on.

“I can see the pain in their face, and they never get over it, losing a child,” Neal said. “I am going to do everything I can from an enforcement standpoint and from a community outreach standpoint to stop the killing that is going on in South L.A.”

Najee Ali, the director of Project Islamic HOPE, said he organized the press conference to address the high number of recent murders throughout South Los Angeles between rival gangs.

“I thought it was important that we get in front of it as soon as possible,” Ali said. “There has been a renewed gang feud between two South L.A. gangs in the area, so our attitude was we need to have all hands on deck to work with community gang intervention specialists, as well as the mothers that have lost children to gang violence.”