Right outside the bathroom where Fred Taft was gunned down three weeks ago in Pan American Park, his friends and family were laying out plans to get more attention on what they think is a hate crime.
Frustrated at the lack of information they’ve gotten from the police and the lack of attention from the media, the group of about 40 people gathered Saturday afternoon for a rally, ultimately forming a committee to mobilize their efforts.
“It’s been three weeks and we still have no news,” Taft’s niece Allison Flanagan said.
Taft’s daughter, Corie Taft, said a police sergeant calls her weekly to check up on her, but she hasn’t heard any news from detectives in a week and a half. Police told her that they are limited on the information they can release and they are working hard on the case, she said.
“I would give anything for justice for my father,” Corie Taft said. “We want answers. I’m willing to contact whoever we have to.”
Police have released little new information since the shooting on July 21 and have declined to call it a hate crime, despite the family’s urge to do so. Witnesses say after Fred Taft was shot, a white man in his 50s and wearing cargo pants fled the scene with a silver gun. Police are still searching for the suspect.
“The motive for this crime has not yet been determined and is still under investigation,” police said in a statement on Aug. 2. “The Police Department will not classify a criminal act as a hate crime unless there is evidence present that meets this legal standard.”
Evidence of racist activity in the area is not hard to find, Black Lives Matter organizer Dawn Modkins said. Racist graffiti was found on a park bench near the crime scene and a softball coach who has games at the park often told family members about a man who would harass park-goers with racist expletives, according to Modkins.
“Those are real racial, white supremacist experiences that have occurred,” Modkins said.
She also noted that days after the shooting, she, Moore and Corie Taft were at the park and a driver in large dark-colored truck with a Confederate flag mounted in the back revved the engine and drove around the block slowly.
“It was really intimidating,” Moore said.
The group gathered Saturday, which included Modkins and other organizers from Black Lives Matter, wants to make the community aware of what happened in the usually quiet neighborhood of Lakewood Village. Members of the rally noted that many of their neighbors have no idea that a man was shot and killed at a park in broad daylight.
“We cannot let this situation go on,” Mareatha Moore, the mother of Taft’s daughter, said to the small crowd. “We need everybody to share this on social media. We’re not using underground railroads today, sewing notes into quilts and stuff; we have social media.”
“We need to take this to City Hall too,” Lakisha Porter, Taft’s niece, added. The group planned letter and phone campaigns to public officials and formed an 11-person committee to organize it all.
Among their plans is to reach out to the residents of Lakewood Village, thinking that someone must know something. The group planned a “community investigation” where the group will pair off and go door-to-door to hand out flyers and ask people in the area what they know.
“It might be someone’s grandchild they don’t want to get in trouble,” Moore said. “Nobody is talking about this.”
The community investigation will be Saturday, Aug. 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After attendees asked Corie Taft if she was okay with that date—it will be the day after her father’s funeral—she nodded her head and agreed.
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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