The shooting death of a 16-year-old boy in Compton Sunday afternoon has some in the community claiming racial tensions have continued to pour onto city streets, while his family and friends searched for answers.
Lontrell Lee Turner, 16, was shot and killed Sunday about 12:37 p.m. at the corner of Bullis Road and Queensdale Avenue. Los Angeles County Sheriff's homicide detectives say the boy was walking north on Bullis when another young man, between 16 and 18 years old, was walking in the opposite direction.
"Some words were exchanged," Homicide Lt. Dave Coleman said Sunday night. "At which time the suspect used a handgun and shot the victim."
Turner was shot four time in the torso. Four shell casings from a .40-caliber handgun were recovered but detectives did not find the gun itself. Witnesses told investigators the suspect ran south on Bullis to get away, wearing what they described only as a dark-colored hoodie.
"He was just walking home from church and they just shot him," mother Regina Dixon told NBC4. "They shot my baby, for no reason, they just shot him."
Friends and family set up a makeshift memorial Monday on the spot where Turner died. Those who visited the spot Monday told stories about a fun-loving kid who liked to write his own rap songs, calling himself, "M.C. Hershey," after his love of the chocolate bar.
"His personality was awesome. No one could not like Lontrell," friend Alexis Terry said.
Friends said they were having a hard time comprehending his death.
"(It's) terrible. None of us went to class today. We spent all day collecting donations and making posters," said Love Roper.
Turner's father said he hoped police would be able to find his son's killer, and that violence would not continue in the neighborhood.
"I want justice for my son and I hope they catch these people that have done this to my son," he said. "Just wish this senseless violence would stop. I never pictured my son being in this situation like that. He was a good kid and he never bothered nobody. Always trying to make people laugh and keep people happy."
Some made claims that they believe Turner's death was racially motivated or gang-related. Red bandanas wrapped around some of the candles were stripped off by Turner's cousin and mother who insist he was not a member of any gang, but they stopped short of denying their own thoughts about a racial dispute.
LA County Sheriff's deputies who patrol the area say they have no reason to believe any gang activity is racially-charged, saying they've instead seen a larger move toward integration within local gangs.
"You have African-American males along with Hispanic males that have tied together in a gang culture," Compton Sheriff Station Capt. Myron Johnson said. "So as far as this being a race war if you will, black on brown, I can't say that's the case."
Johnson said shootings overall are down over the last five years in the city and in unincorporated parts of Compton, a fact he says is thanks to community input and city investment. But lately there is an uptick in the data, showing as 2014 comes to a close, those numbers may be increasing.
"To mitigate that, the city has committed resources, as well as the department in terms of manpower to bring the resources together to abate the shooting issues," Johnson said.
It offers little comfort to family and friends of Turner who say they plan to hold a vigil Monday night in his honor.
Family friend Yoshioka Lewis Brown was angry about Turner's death, saying in today's day, this shouldn't be happening in Compton.
"You would think that young men, black, Hispanic, white, whoever they are ... They need to stop this senseless, stupid killing," she said. "God is tired of these innocent lives, this blood being shed for nothing."
And to the shooter, Brown said: "Whoever did this, know that you will have to answer to the Lord for what you did today."
Sheriff Homicide detectives are looking for additional witnesses and any information that could help them find the gunman. Tips can be called in to 323-890-5500 or by calling Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-222-8477 (TIPS).