"Why you got to keep wearing these shoes?" Leo Cisneros would ask his dear friend John Matthews, who had recently taken to wearing orange-trimmed Nikes. "He said they were a Christmas gift, but I told him not to wear them. You know what orange is 'round here, right?"
Orange "'round here" -- 89th and Vermont Avenue in Westmont where Matthews, 36, was shot and killed Wednesday night - is the color of the Hoover Street Criminals. Street sources suspected the shooter may have mistaken Matthews for a rival Hoover because of those orange shoes.
"People get mistaken around here all the time," said another friend of Matthews, Garry King.
Matthews, a handyman who was on his way to see his two young children, had apparently stopped to talk to a security guard at the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ when they where approached by a lone black man.
"The suspect walked up, said something to the two victims, then began firing," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Dave Coleman, adding the shooting appeared to be unprovoked. Matthews was fatally wounded and the security guard was critically injured. As of early Thursday evening, no one had been arrested, but the many surveillance cameras in the area may provide detectives with valuable clues.
After being shot, the guard, "Johnny", ran about 70 yards north into the church's parking lot before he collapsed. He was conscious and telling a church worker that he had "been hit." Thursday afternoon, a large blood stain remained in the parking lot.
"This is community here is the hottest, most dangerous in the city," said the church's pastor, Anthony Williams. "We need help."
In the bloody gutter of the sidewalk where Matthews was mortally wounded, a lone murder candle lay, smeared red. Five feet away was the common Southside site of a makeshift memorial where, next to more - upright - murder candles, friends had placed a small. empty bottle of Hennessy cognac.
"We drank that bottle together at our Super Bowl party," said Cisneros, smiling sadly.
"Yeah," chimed in King, "We invited all these people over for the Super Bowl, made all this food, barbequed chicken. but it was just us three at the party. It was great."
King said he had only known Matthews for two years, but they were like long-lost brothers. "When I met him, I had one of those feelings like "Where have you been?"