Man killed at reunion in Long Beach was a loving father, dedicated grandpa, family says

Dozens of friends and family members of the man who was shot in a Long Beach park bathroom on Saturday gathered Monday evening to remember Fred Taft, whom they described as a hard-working and kind-hearted family man who always made time to play with his grandkids and support his daughter.

“That’s why so many people are out here,” said Lakisha Porter, Taft’s niece. “He meant a lot to everybody, just a compassionate individual.”

Taft was killed during a family reunion at Pan American Park on Centralia Street in the Lakewood Village neighborhood. Two days after his death, Taft’s loved-ones were left wondering why he was gunned down. Police have not arrested anyone or determined a motive.

“We’re trying to figure out exactly what happened, what would cause somebody to come in and just snatch a life from us,” Porter said.

Porter showed a photo of a racist slur scrawled across a table that was near the reunion on Saturday. She said it has since been painted over.

Fred Taft’s daughter, Corie Taft, wore a shirt saying “Justice For My Dad!!” at the vigil for her father on July 23, 2018. Photo by Asia Morris.

Deborah Posey said she was feet away from the restroom with her great niece when she heard gunfire. She’d just spoken with Taft and started making her way back to the party when he headed into the restroom.

“I hadn’t even made it—when he turned the corner to go in—I hadn’t even made it 10 steps when I heard the shots, three times,” Posey said. “And when I heard them I screamed and said, ‘Fredrick’s been shot,’ because I figured he was the only one in the restroom.

“And I just stood there and just froze and I screamed out to [the gunman], ‘What did you do to Fredrick?’ And he just held his head down and he just jogged out of the park. He didn’t run. He just took his sweet time and went all way down to the path and made a right on Centralia.”

Cheryl Malonson, Taft’s sister, said he was a loving person, an entrepreneur and a truck driver.

“He made everyone who came into his life feel special; he was my rock,” Malonson said. “I could always depend on him. I’m going to miss my brother.”

She said she believes this was a racist crime.

The bathroom where Fred Taft was shot at Pan American Park on July 21, 2018. Photo by Asia Morris.

Corie Taft, Taft’s daughter, was at her son’s basketball game during the shooting. She had planned to join her family at the reunion afterward.

Her son was getting ready to take his basketball pictures when she got the news.

“I got a phone call that my dad was found murdered in the restroom,” Corie Taft said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

His death has left her incomplete, she said.

“I’m hurt; I’m fatherless; my kids don’t have their grandfather anymore,” Corie Taft said. “I just want justice for my father.”

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.