Nipsey Hussle’s Killing Shook Fans Worldwide. It Was One of 29 in South LA This Year

May 3, 2019by Nicole Santa Cruz
Regenald Thomas and his mother, Patricia Williams, stand where his son, Allen Thomas, was killed in March. Allen was an athlete who enjoyed football, soccer and track. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

LOS ANGELES — When Nipsey Hussle was killed outside his Hyde Park storefront in March, the incident brought attention to South Los Angeles and the many ways the rapper influenced the community.

The rap star’s death stirred an outpouring of grief worldwide, but he was one of 29 people who have lost their lives in the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau so far this year.

Almost all of the victims were black, male and died from gunfire. Some were killed standing on street corners. Others were in cars or hanging out with friends. Many left behind children.

Hussle left a legacy of hope and prosperity for South L.A. communities historically on the short end of both. But his death was a reminder of the grim toll exacted on the loved ones of those cut down by violence.

Here are some of their stories.

Allen Thomas, 17

Allen Thomas grew up seeing Hussle driving around his Vermont Slauson neighborhood. The slain rapper was among those who inspired Allen to strive for more out of life.

In an essay, Allen, a senior at Crenshaw High School, wrote of growing up in poverty and witnessing gang violence.

“Every day I see people deal drugs and others who are there hanging out with their homies doing absolutely nothing,” he wrote.

He wanted to be different, to attend college and maybe even become a doctor, he said. He was killed March 16, three days before his 18th birthday.

Allen stood in a driveway in the 1200 block of West 57th Street when a sedan drove by and someone inside began shooting. He ran, but was struck and later died at a hospital. Police have no suspects.

A few feet away, his grandmother heard the shots. Patricia Williams, 73, said she is lost without him.

“He never went to bed without asking, ‘Is there anything I can do for you, Momma Pat?’” Williams said, sitting on the couch in her living room.

Allen was an athlete who enjoyed football, soccer and track. In Williams’ living room, there are scattered belongings of her grandson: his blue backpack, a gray Crenshaw High sweatshirt and his football jerseys.

His father, Regenald Thomas, said when he lost his younger son Dana at seven years old in 2011, Allen was there to keep him afloat.

“He kept me on my toes all the time,” he said.

Allen had sat for his senior portrait. He was set to attend Southwest College in the fall. His acceptance letter is framed on the fireplace mantle.

On a poster board filled with images in a corner of the living room, one photo stands out: Allen smiles shyly next to Hussle, who has his arm wrapped around the boy’s shoulder. His family doesn’t know when the picture was taken.

Hussle would be killed only two weeks after Allen’s death.

Jamar Mccollum, 26

On a recent evening, Jackie Mccollum stood where her son Jamar had been shot only hours earlier. She was surrounded by other mothers who had lost a child to violence.

“We’re not supposed to bury our kids,” Mccollum said to the assembled TV camera crews. She thanked everyone and said there are no words to describe the feeling of losing a son.

“I’m going to keep on trudging,” she said. “And my son will always be in my heart.”

Early on April 15, Jamar Mccollum was found shot to death inside a gray Lexus in the 600 block of East Century Boulevard in the Green Meadows neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Officials said his body had been there for hours before it was discovered.

So far police have few details about the death and have not identified a suspect. Mccollum, a motorcycle mechanic, lived down the street from the crime scene and was not a gang member, police said. He had a 5-year-old son.

As night fell, about 100 people had come to mourn him. Some lit white candles that formed a “J” and a heart on the street.

His girlfriend, Chevette Veney, said he liked to ride motorcycles and was part of a motorcycle club called the L.A. Defiant Ones.

“This was not his time,” she said, her voice strained from crying.

Michael Hemphill III, 29

The funeral home in Lawndale was packed last Tuesday, with mourners spilling into the parking lot and onto nearby sidewalks to pay respects to 29-year-old Michael Hemphill III.

Hemphill, a security guard who left behind a 10-year-old daughter, was described by friends and family as a happy man who enjoyed life. Police don’t know much about his killing, except that he was shot in Watts during a gathering of people.

Those who came to commemorate Hemphill described the persistent violence that shades their own lives.

“This should not be a custom,” the minister, Akela Wroten Jr., told the standing-room crowd. “We gotta protect one another.”

Vera Conner described her son, known as “Mike Mike,” as a happy-go-lucky man who continued hanging out with boyhood friends in the Nickerson Garden Housing Development even after he moved away.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on April 12, gunfire rang out at the gathering in the 1300 block of East 111th St. Hemphill and two others were wounded, police said. Hemphill died at a hospital. The two others survived.

Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened.

Conner said she would miss her son coming into the house at all hours of the night, messing up the dishes as he cooked up a meal.

“He was just a pleasant person,” she said.

Hemphill loved his daughter, who was his right hand chef in the kitchen, especially when he’d make Chinese rice.

“When he wasn’t working, he’d hang out with her,” Conner said.

Wroten, 28, who grew up with Hemphill, has seen others his age fall victim to gun violence.

“We’re just tired of losing friends,” he said.

Kalease Patterson, 19

Kalease Patterson had to be on his way to work by 4:15 a.m. on most weekdays. The 19-year-old started as a contractor at an oil refinery but had been hired full-time because of his work ethic, relatives said.

But Patterson wanted more. He was studying to be an electrician. He was asking his mother about home prices with hopes of becoming a property owner someday.

He rarely took Saturdays off. But on Saturday March 10, Patterson had a friend in town from Baltimore and was showing him around the Watts area.

A car pulled up alongside his near East 113th and Grape streets, and gunfire sprayed from inside, hitting Patterson.

Patterson was always helping his relatives. When his grand-uncle threw out his back recently, Patterson drove him to errands and kept up the house.

What pains his grandfather, Maurice Pinkney, is the loss of the man he was becoming.

“He wanted to make a good living,” he said. “He wanted to work hard.”

Patterson’s mother, Makita Lewis, said her son dreamed of starting his own business building houses.

“I never thought in a million years that this could happen to me,” said Lewis, a senior chief in the Navy stationed in Japan. “I’m serving for my country and my child is gunned down while I’m stationed overseas. It changes the way I think about everything.”

Jamie Baker, 32

It was in Jamie Baker’s nature to be helpful. So when she met Danny Jones, 49, at a family gathering last year and he told her he needed an in-home caretaker, she volunteered.

Baker, a mother of two, traveled from Victorville to South L.A. for days at a time to care for Jones, a relative of her mother’s. But in recent months, she became afraid, her mother said.

Jamie told her family that Jones padlocked the doors and would hold her captive. He’d take her phone and change the password.

“He had to be one to let her in and out of the house,” said her mother, Lisa Baker.

Lisa thinks that her daughter continued seeing Jones out of concern and because she wanted to trust him as family. But he was addicted to methamphetamines, she said, and tried to turn Jamie into an addict.

Two days before she was killed, Jamie called her 15-year-old son. She told him she didn’t know if she would make it home alive, but she loved him.

On March 11, Baker called her mother and told her she wanted to come home. Concerned for Jamie’s safety, Lisa Baker called the police multiple times over the course of the afternoon and evening.

When police finally responded, they could raise no one inside the home in the 100 block of West 109th Street. A SWAT team later determined that Jones had barricaded himself inside and was armed.

Early the next morning, police used a robot to enter the home and found Baker shot to death. In the attic, Danny Jones had turned the gun on himself.

Lisa Baker is now raising her two grandsons. On prom night for one of the boys, Lisa thought about how much Jamie would have loved to be there.

“Jamie was a really loving mom,” Lisa Baker said. “She loved her boys.”

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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