Families waited anxiously behind crime tape on Ohio Avenue for hours Wednesday, watching for any movement that might indicate they would soon get answers. They were waiting for someone to come out to tell them if their relatives were among those killed in a mass shooting hours earlier that ended with three people dead and nine more wounded.

A woman wearing a long scarf dropped to her knees on the front lawn of a home, sobbing—her hands folded in prayer—hoping that her loved one was still alive.

“We hope he’s not in there,” one woman who was with her said.

“I just need to know,” said the aunt of another victim.

Family members react after the Los angles Coroners office spoke with them, at the scene of a Halloween party shooting, where three people were killed and nine injured in Long Beach’s Rose Park neighborhood. Photo by Stephen Carr.

They feared their relatives were among the three men slain when a gunman or gunmen sprayed a crowded Halloween party with bullets around 10:45 Tuesday night. Investigators believe the attack was targeted, but they don’t know yet at whom or why. There’s so far no evidence it was gang related, said police, who have not made any arrests.

When a coroner’s car started to pull out of an alleyway Wednesday morning, the families pressed closer, asking a nearby police officer when they would know for certain if their loved ones were dead.

After an official from the coroner’s office spoke with one family, they embraced and cried. They shook the hand of the police officer and thanked him.

A woman collapses on the grass after speaking with a Coroners official. Photo by Stephen Carr.

The second family, including the praying woman, hugged and sobbed aloud after their visit from a coroner’s official. One woman got on her knees and wailed before leaning against a utility box for support. Another was sick at the news, retching behind a tree.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s officer and family members have since publicly identified the men. They are:

  • 25-year-old Maurice Poe Jr. from Long Beach
  • 35-year-old Melvin Williams II from Gardena
  • 28-year-old Ricardo Torres from Inglewood
Maurice Poe Jr.
Maurice Poe Jr. Photo courtesy of Maurice Poe Sr.

Maurice Poe Sr. had been trying to get his son to move up to Nebraska, where he lived, for years. Both he and his son were born and raised in Long Beach and he knew how hard it was to “make it” in California, with its high cost-of-living.

But his son had other plans. He had a 3-year-old daughter and a girlfriend of 10 years. He had a steady job with an alcohol distributor setting up display cases, his dad said.

“He was out there trying to stand on his own two feet,” Poe Sr. said.

His son went to the party on Tuesday night with his cousin, who was there to celebrate her coworker’s birthday. The cousin was shot in the leg, but is expected to recover, according to Poe Sr.

Since the shooting, Poe Sr. said he has been in contact with his son’s mother, family and authorities. They started to fear Poe Jr. had been killed when when his cousin didn’t see him on the triage tarps set up on the lawn of a nail salon in front of home hosting the party.

Poe Jr. enjoyed playing in video game tournaments and would try to get his dad to play with him from Nebraska. He has never been in any serious trouble, his dad said.

“I always said he’s as square as a pool table, twice as green,” Poe Sr. said. “My son was full of life.”

The family is raising funds for Poe Jr.’s funeral expenses through a GoFundMe.

Melvin Williams II
Melvin Williams II. Photo courtesy of Brandon Pam.

Williams’ step-brother Brandon Pam was among those waiting for news on Wednesday morning. He said the 35-year-old was outgoing and funny, with the “best humor.”

“He always had the jokes, he was always upbeat,” Pam said.

Williams and his sister, who was wounded but expected to recover, were only at the party for about 20 minutes before shots rang out and chaos erupted, according to Pam. The Williams siblings were close and described as best friends. They had just gotten back from a trip to Santa Barbara two weeks ago that was “non-stop laughter,” Pam said.

Pam described Williams as a “church boy” who sang with a choir in Los Angeles. He loved performing R&B and gospel music.

Ricardo Torres

Ricardo Torres was one of the many co-workers attending the party. He was a line cook at the company, according to Daniel Chan, who hosted the party.

Torres was a “good man, always smiling,” Chan said.

“He was a great person,” said a friend who asked not to be named. “His presence just lit up every room he entered and he always made you feel welcomed.”

Nine wounded

Police identified the other nine victims wounded in the shooting only by their ages and city of residence:

  • a 20-year-old woman from Anaheim
  • a 27-year-old woman from Hawthorne
  • a 27-year-old man from Cudahy
  • a 28-year-old woman from Los Angeles
  • a 28-year-old woman from Gardena
  • a 29-year-old man from Hawthorne
  • a 30-year-old woman from Compton
  • a 32-year-old woman from Lawndale
  • a 49-year-old woman from Los Angeles

    Officials removed bodies from the home as concerned loved-ones waited and cried outside. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ValerieOsier