He was shot 9 times at a crowded park; his family wonders why there aren’t more witnesses

The family of Fred Taft keeps coming back to Pan American Park, the place where the beloved father and grandfather was shot and killed during a family reunion in July.

For what would’ve been Taft’s 58th birthday in September, they brought his favorite cake—a Paradise cake from King’s Hawaiian bakery in Torrance—to celebrate his life. But their visits serve another purpose, too.

“We’re not going to let anyone scare us away; they chose the wrong family,” said his niece, Allison Flanigan.

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.

The family, along with friends and a group of supporters and activists, have been meeting at the park regularly, passing out fliers to remind the public of the $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Taft’s killer.

“I have to do it, I have to be my dad’s voice,” said Taft’s daughter, Corie Taft.

Fred Taft was shot and killed in the bathroom of the park in Long Beach’s Lakewood Village neighborhood shortly before 4 p.m. on July 21. Witnesses say they saw a white man in his 50s jogging away from the scene carrying a gun. Taft’s wallet with cash and his phone were found with his body.

Despite the killing repeatedly making headlines, no new witnesses have come forward since the announcement of the reward, Long Beach Police Officer Ben Hearst said.

Fred Taft. File photo.

Police say it’s still a mystery why someone targeted Taft. His family believes the crime was racially motivated.

“What I want to understand is: Why? Why him? What’s his reason for killing somebody that day that didn’t bother him?” Flanigan said.

Recently, they got a few more details about how Taft died.

Frustrated at the lack of information investigators were giving her, Corie Taft requested the autopsy report to find out more for herself.

“I was angry all over again,” she said. “It was something I didn’t want to read, but I had to. … It made me feel that day all over again.”

According to the report, Taft was shot nine times: once in the back of the head, three times in the back and three times in his lower body. He sustained two graze wounds in the abdomen.

Corie Taft, daughter of Fred Taft, reads her statement as the Long Beach Police Department held a news conference to request the public’s help and announce the anticipation of a reward being issued in his killing at Pan American Park in Long Beach, Sept. 4, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

Corie Taft, daughter of Fred Taft, reads her statement as the Long Beach Police Department held a news conference to request the public’s help and announce the anticipation of a reward being issued in his killing at Pan American Park in Long Beach, Sept. 4, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

Investigators found six 9-millimeter bullet casings at the scene but found no gun, according to the report.

The fact that no more witnesses have come forward despite the fact that her father was shot so many times in the middle of the day on a Saturday surprises the family, Corie Taft said.

“You think somebody would’ve heard or saw something,” she said.

Taft’s family met up at the park again last week for the three-month anniversary of Taft’s death. They cooked food, gathered as a family and tried to spread the word about what happened.

https://lbpost.com/news/crime/police-fred-taft-shooting-hate-crime/

“A lot of people still don’t know about it, even in this neighborhood,” Corie Taft said.

But for Corie Taft, who hasn’t been able to go back to work, the killing is an unescapable reality that’s left her in “never-ending pain.”

“I just want answers, I want justice and I want some type of closure,” she said. “My kids deserve it. My family deserves it. … I just wish this person would turn themselves in.”

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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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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