Police look for witnesses to deadly shooting at family reunion in Pan American Park

Police on Thursday said they think there are more witnesses who have yet to come forward with information that could help solve the case of a grandfather who was gunned down in a Long Beach park bathroom during a family reunion about four weeks ago. And they “strongly urge” those witnesses to contact investigators.

“This murder took place at a time when numerous people were in the surrounding area of the park,” police said in a statement. “Detectives believe there are individuals who might have information regarding this incident but have yet to come forward.”

Investigators on Thursday also released the most detailed description yet of the gunman suspected of killing Fred Taft, a 57-year-old from Long Beach who was described by loved-ones as a hard-working family man.

The shooter is a white man in his 50s who is about 6 feet tall with a medium build, police said. Investigators think he was wearing a dark shirt, light shorts and a hat.

Fred Taft. Photo by Robert Casillas.

Taft was shot moments after he went into the bathroom at Pan American Park around 4:30 p.m. on July 21, according to people who were at the reunion with him.

Friends and family of Taft, who is black, have pushed police to call the killing a hate crime, citing racist graffiti found nearby and reports from another park-goer about a man who would harass people with racial epithets.

Police, however, said they don’t know the killer’s motive at this point and have no evidence he attacked Taft because of his race.

Police said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident, but they’ve increased patrols around Pan American Park and are looking at whether other crimes in the area could be connected to the killing.

Anyone with information can contact Long Beach homicide detectives Michael Hubbard and Adrian Garcia at 562-570-7244 or provide an anonymous tip to Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or www.lacrimestoppers.org.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.