Three Los Angeles street gang members are in custody for the killing of Tavin Price, the 19-year-old mentally handicapped man shot to death May 29 in front of his mother at a car wash on Florence Avenue near Crenshaw Boulevard.
The alleged shooter, Kanasho Johns, 27, was taken into custody today near Houston, Texas and will be transported to Los Angeles within a few days. Dwight Kevin Smith, 30 and Kevin Deon Johnson, 24, who allegedly confronted Price over his red Chuck Taylor Converse tennis shoes, were both arrested and charged on suspicion of murder last week and are being held in lieu of more than two million dollars bail. A 27 year-old woman, Antheyst Jarrett, was arrested shortly after the homicide on charges of witness intimidation and accessory after the fact to murder. Her bail is $500,000.
"These people murdered my child in front of my face," said Jennifer Rivers, Tavin's mother who broke down once during Tuesdays's press conference announcing the arrests. "I'm going to be seeing my son shot in front of me and asking me "Am I gonna be Okay?" and then telling me "Mommy, I don't want to die" for my while life. This is just torture."
LAPD homicide detective Chris Barling, coordinator of the 77th Street Division's busy homicide unit, applauded Rivers' for her relentless efforts to help find the killers of her son.
"I want to thank her because she helped keep this in the public's eye," Barling said in the 77th's press room which was packed with local television news cameras. "I also want to thank LAPD's Metropolitan SWAT unit, the FBI/ LAPD Fugitive Task Force, Houston Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriffs, the local media and, mostly, the community for their help."
Tavin Price, who was, in the correct term, "intellectually disabled", was at the Simms Car Wash on Florence at 11 a.m. with his mother and a family friend when he walked into the adjoining smoke shop. Price, not a gang member, was confronted over his "red Chucks", the symbolic color of the confederation of street gangs known as the Bloods. Price did not reply and returned to his family vehicle. Soon after, allegedly, Johns, who was not in the smoke shop, ran from across the street to the car and shot him multiple times.
Johns is a member of the 58th Street Neighborhood Crips. Both Smith and Johnson are members of the Rollin' 60s Crips, one of the city's most infamous. Both gangs have been widely criticized on the streets for not only killing the diminutive Price in front of his mother, but for shooting a 4-foot, 11-inch, 100-pound mentally handicapped young man in the first place. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Inmate Locator website,.Smith is 6-foot, one-inch, 170 pounds and Johnson is five-foot, five-inches 140 pounds. "Why couldn't they just go toe-to-toe with the guy if they thought he was a Blood?" several people have said.
"Who would do that?" Jennifer Rivers asked. "I don't get it. But, I'll be in court everyday."
Los Angeles City Council member Bernard Parks, the former LAPD Chief of Police, said their arrests should provide some comfort to the family, but won't stop the pain.
"There is never closure when you lose a loved one," said Parks, who has known Tavin's family since the 1960s. Parks noted that near the same car wash where Tavin was shot, LAPD police officer Daniel Pratt was killed in a drive-by shooting on September 3, 1988. (Kirkton Phanor Moore, now 54, was convicted of the murder in 1990 and is serving life at Kern Valley State Prison.)
After the press conference, at the Inglewood Park Cemetery where Price was buried last Saturday, family and friends gathered at his grave site. Tavin's brother James clowned around, getting laughs for his impersonation of Tavin walking when he was upset.
The grave was surrounded by a white picket fence.
"Tavin loved white picket fences," his mother said as she looked on from afar. "We used to have one when we lived on the Eastside. Now, Tavin has his own."