Two gang members convicted of first-degree murder were sentenced Wednesday for the killing of a 19-year-old mentally disabled man who prosecutors said was gunned down near a South Los Angeles car wash because he was wearing red shoes.
Kanasho Johns, 29, and Kevin Deon Johnson, 26, were sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for the May 29, 2015, killing of Tavin Price. Johns, the gunman, was given an additional three year sentence for felony possession of a firearm.
At the onset of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Bobby Zoumberakis told jurors Price "was not allowed to wear red shoes in that gang neighborhood."
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"Tavin Price was murdered because of gang pride, because the gang pride was more important than Tavin Price's life," the prosecutor told the eight-man, four-woman jury.
Both the prosecution and defense agreed Smith confronted Price in a smoke shop near the car wash in the 3300 block of West Florence Avenue, while Johnson stood nearby. That conversation and the shooting itself were caught on surveillance video, though there was no audio recording.
Smith identified himself as a gang member and said to Price, "Why are you wearing all that red? Where are you from?" according to Johnson's attorney, Curt Leftwich.
"I don't bang," Price replied, to which Smith retorted, "Come out of those shoes," according to Leftwich.
Both sides also told jurors that Hilary Wade, who is the mother of Price's nephew and was in the store with him, told Smith that the young man wasn't a "gangbanger" and explained that he was "slow."
A short while later, Price was standing by his mother's car when a gunman fired four rounds at "this 19-year-old boy who did nothing wrong and ended him'' with "no hesitation," Zoumberakis said.
He said there an eyewitness who knew Johns identified him as the shooter, and Johns fled to Texas in an effort to avoid prosecution.
For his part, Johnson left the car wash, picked up Johns and drove him to the scene of the shooting, according to Zoumberakis.
"He’s done nothing wrong. He had no criminal record. He had no gang involvement. And I think the jury saw that, and saw how important it was to get justice for him," Zoumberakis said.