“He was an angel in front of everyone’s eyes,” says Gerry Lang, remembering her 26-year-old son, Davon Pledger. “They murdered my son. My baby son. And it hurts. It just hurts so bad.”
May 9, 2020 – the night before Mother’s Day – Pledger had gone to visit friends on Cornelius Street in Pacoima. The short road ends in a cul de sac where Pledger can be seen on surveillance video before the shooting speaking on a cell phone and pacing the street.
Just after 10 p.m., LAPD Valley Bureau homicide detectives say a dark-colored, four-door Honda Civic drives up the street, passes Pledger and made a U-turn before pausing in front of a home.
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“Someone knows something,” says Detective Sharon Kim, the lead on the Pledger homicide case. “This area of Pacoima has a long historical standing of violence between Black and Brown gangs. Davon wasn’t a gang member at all but there are a lot of gangs in this area. Unbeknownst to him they were probably on a mission.”
Using surveillance video and witness accounts, LAPD believes three men got out of the vehicle and fired multiple shots at Pledger. Emergency 911 calls flooded in with claims of hearing 15 to 20 rounds. Pledger collapsed in a driveway.
“The people who did it don’t understand what they took from me,” Lang says of that night. Trying – and failing – to hold back tears, she says she relives every moment as she rushed to the scene to find her baby boy lifeless and alone.
“It kills me to this day,” she says, “because I wasn’t there when he closed his eyes. I wasn’t there to tell him he’s gonna be okay. I just wanted to be there to hold his hand.”
Pledger was a father of two young boys, ages 2 and 4 at the time. His family says he graduated with a degree in criminal justice but had to work multiple jobs to provide the life he says he never had.
Stephanie Rodriguez was his fiancé and mother to their children. “I was just so proud of him for being such an outstanding, young Black father,” she says, “and he really beat all stereotypes.”
Rodriguez says she sees so much of Davon in their two boys.
“Even now they remind me so much of him,” she says, “It’s sweet and sour because I hug them so tight because I feel like I’m hugging Davon in a way.”
Lang says her son lived for his own sons. She says Davon was 4-years-old himself when his own dad died and that he promised he’d never leave his kids’ side.
“He lived for those little boys,” Lang says. “If you could just see the smile on his face when they were around. It was unbelievable.”
In the year since Pledger’s death, his family says he missed out on moments they wished they could’ve shared with him. His younger sister, Dejanee, says she felt his absence particularly difficult when he wasn’t around to share news she was expecting.
“He would’ve been a great uncle and I wish I could’ve shared the news with him to tell him I was pregnant,” she says, adding that she lost the baby, and her brother would’ve been her rock in those tragic moments, too, “I don’t have that, I don’t have the opportunity to tell him what happened or what’s going on or how I feel.”
Pledger’s older brother tells the story of how Davon would visit him in prison during most of his life. Lamar Pledger had been serving a prison term for armed robbery but says he always tried to teach his brother to live a better life, and to be a better man. Davon was just 5 years old when his brother went to prison. The elder Pledger says they spoke almost daily by phone for more than 20 years.
“To see someone so close to me, my brother, that broke my heart,” he says, freed from prison just three months after his brother’s murder. “Me and my brother planned for me to come home,” he says, “that’s all we talked about every day. And doing things I’ve never done in my life.”
And yet behind prison walls is where the family hopes to find justice in Davon’s murder.
“I’m the perfect example to tell you that you will suffer,” Lamar Pledger says, “You will suffer when you’re in the cell with a life sentence and you don’t know if you’ll ever see society, see trees and birds and your family again.”
“I want them to rot,” his mother says, adding that she doesn’t want to see a death penalty imposed, “I want their asses to suffer and suffer until they can’t move in that cell no more.”
A $50,000 reward is being offered for information in the case and you can remain anonymous and still get the reward. LAPD CrimeStoppers is at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).