Football hero slain, nine others injured as violence surges in the city
A Special Message to Black and Latino Street Organizations (FCN/Min. Farrakhan, 12-11-2004)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – In a city notorious for gang violence and drive by shootings, a rash of unrelated incidents have baffled law enforcement, community leaders and even some gang intervention and prevention workers because the majority of victims were school children who have no gang affiliation and were minding their own business.
One victim was a high school football hero, another a six-year-old boy, and eight others were simply waiting at a bus stop.
Some 300 people attended a March 4 prayer vigil to celebrate the life of a young Black male who lived his life by the book. Two Latino gang members, who are still at large, allegedly gunned down 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw three doors away from his home March 2, robbing his family and his Arlington Heights community of an “MVP.” Jamiel got good grades in school and attended church regularly. He was a hero to his nine-year-old brother, a leader on his football team and in his neighborhood.
According to his father, Jamiel Shaw, Sr., the two were weighing potential scholarships from Stanford and Rutgers Universities when tragedy struck.
Jamiel was talking on the phone with his girlfriend, Chrystale Miles, while walking home. The men drove up, asked if he was gang affiliated and began shooting when he did not respond, reports said.
Mother survives war, son dies on city street
The Shaw family is still shocked their son was murdered in cold blood, especially Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, who left her second tour of duty in Iraq to bury her son. “She couldn’t understand how it could happen and told me, ‘I’m walking around, seeing people laying in the streets with the same kind of wounds that my son had. Why am I doing this to stay alive and to help my kids, and then I get a phone call that says my son is dead?’” Mr. Shaw recalled.
During the vigil, Jamiel Shaw, Sr., recalled the night when his heart nearly stopped beating. In minutes, the shooters wiped away a lifetime of hard work, sacrifice and dreams, he said. The incident happened around 8:30 p.m., but unfolded earlier that day when Jamiel asked to go to the mall with friends.
His father was inclined to say no, fearing for his son’s safety. However, he allowed Jamiel to take the trip with two good friends. Evening came. When Mr. Shaw called to say he was going to pick Jamiel up from the mall, the boys had already taken the bus, but it was the wrong one.
Mr. Shaw worried about the delayed trip, but rested easy when he called to check on Jamiel. His son was just around the corner.
Two to three minutes later, shots rang out. Although he instinctively knew the shots might be targeted at his son, he called Jamiel’s cell phone, offering a futile warning of danger in the neighborhood. Jamiel did not answer.
“I ran outside and saw him lying a few houses down. I could see peace and knew he was gone,” Mr. Shaw said.
Through the sounds of sniffling and tears, he pleaded for those gathered at the vigil to stop crying and help to solve gang violence, which is increasingly being characterized as a race war between Black and Latino youth.
“Jamiel had a lot of Brown friends in a good way and we hear a lot of stuff about Black and Brown, but I don’t see it as a Black and Brown problem. It’s a gang problem and even though he was murdered by some Latinos, there is a lot of good Latinos, Black people, Asians. I don’t want everybody to see this as an assault on the Latino population,” he said.
Mr. Shaw drew tears and laughter as he described his son and their relationship. He started with the 18-year plan he devised for Jamiel, which included youth athletics, good grades and college prep tutoring. They sacrificed together and although he did not understand the plan, Mr. Shaw said, Jamiel grew older and bought into it.
“It wasn’t like I was raising Jesus. I had to go through things, discipline him, go to schools and talk to people, but he never got in trouble. I thought that everything I was doing was going to keep him from this and he always told me, ‘Dad, everybody’s not shooting out there.’ But I was afraid for his life when he left the house that day,” Mr. Shaw said.
The murder has drawn outrage from residents, Jamiel’s classmates at Los Angeles High School, city officials and gang interventionists.
His friend, Chris, blamed ignorance. “People just assume things, but this dude didn’t deserve anything like this. He was a good dude who avoided all of the negativity. To solve this, police, government and media can’t just target the inner city, small communities, but look at the big picture going on in the world because there are a lot of people dying out here,” he said.
Jamiel Shaw, Sr., doesn’t have a plan now, but he has to pick up the pieces for his 9-year-old son, who wanted to be just like his big brother. “He asked me, ‘Dad, are they going to kill me too?’ How are we going to teach our kids that if they do everything right, this won’t happen? I would treat you good if I knew it was your last day and I don’t mean that in a morbid kind of way. If we treat every day like our last day we will see each other, I guarantee you no one would get murdered because everyone would be giving too much love,” he said.
Six-year-old survives shooting
At Final Call presstime Jamiel’s shooters were still at large, but police arrested two gang members who allegedly shot a six-year-old Black boy in the head as he rode in his family’s sports utility vehicle. The shooting occurred on the same day as the prayer vigil.
News spread that evening that, according to police, three adults (including the boy’s pregnant mother) and three male children were driving through Harbor Gateway, about 17 miles southwest of Los Angeles, when two Latino gang members flashed gang signs and opened fire on their SUV. The critically wounded child was taken to a nearby hospital.
Police said community cooperation aided in the arrests of the 25- and 26-year-old gang members, who are facing attempted murder charges. In Harbor Gateway, there have been widespread reports of a Latino gang ordering all Blacks out of the area. In 2006, 14-year-old Cheryl Green was murdered in the same neighborhood by Latino gangbangers because of her race.
Although the family driving through Harbor Gateway was targeted because it was Black, a host of gang interventionists believe the incident, as with Jamiel’s murder, is more gang-related than racially motivated. The situation is complicated because some Black and Latino gangs are at war in specific areas. But, activists say, L.A. is not home to an all-out a race war–though race is a factor in some shootings. Some residents, however, disagree.
“We’re feeling tension and the community is asking if this is a racial problem because it looks like it and smells like it because our children who are not involved in gangs are being hit. But there is a small portion of people that have these issues. A lot has happened that is bad, but there’s been a lot of acts of violence that we’ve been able to help stop,” said Jerald Cavitt, a hardcore gang intervention worker. Black and Latino gang activists are working on rumor control and to quell retaliation.
Bus stop shooting wounds eight
The Feb. 27 shooting of three adults and five children at a bus stop near George Washington Carver Middle School in South L.A. seemed like a prelude to the other incidents. The shooter, a 24-year-old Black male, fired 15 rounds from a semi-automatic handgun, hoping to hit two people, police said. He was arrested shortly afterward and faces 10 counts of attempted murder. He missed both targets, but managed to wound children, ages 10-14, and three adults, police said. The victims suffered superficial wounds and injuries to the chest and face. All survived.
“The blood is running up to the horses bridle and it’s not going to stop, so don’t look for government or police because they don’t prevent crime. The church, mosque, synagogue, the people prevent, and when the people have had enough of the babies dying, then the people and the gangs will begin to heed Min. Louis Farrakhan’s repetitive warnings to stop the killing,” said Tony Muhammad, Nation of Islam student minister in Los Angeles.
Community passivity is a problem and if people sit back and do nothing, while children fall in the streets, every family will be affected by gang violence, he warned.
Working for peace
Community groups and individuals are working to restore calm and peace. Councilman Herb Wesson pledged the full support of his office to help the Shaw family. Entertainer Stevie Wonder called on the gang interventionists to coordinate a benefit concert to promote awareness and education to help end gang violence. He promised his full support. The gang intervention groups, under the Cease Fire Committee, an umbrella intervention effort, are meeting with gangs and spreading the word through the Black media to keep the peace. Mothers who have lost children to gang violence are holding a meeting with mothers who have not to encourage proactive involvement. Nation of Islam’s Jr. Fruit of Islam are scheduled to meet with community youth to offer successful alternatives to gang life.
“To see Jamiel’s father cry, I’m just tired,” said veteran peace activist Vickey Lindsey of Mothers Cry No More. “Collectively, women continue to be silent, except for a few women warriors, but we need to make a greater stand. We need to tell our boys, girls, husbands, nephews, even ourselves, to stop the violence. Enough is enough!”