Authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of a Compton gang member who they say fired the shots that killed the half sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams last fall.
Officials on Tuesday released a wanted poster of Robert Edward Maxfield, 23, a reputed member of the Southside Crips, identifying him as the alleged gunman in the shooting of Yetunde Price, 31.
Maxfield, whose gang moniker is "Baby Spank," has eluded authorities for months despite a series of police stakeouts and raids in Compton and Las Vegas. Police have been tracking Maxfield's movements since October, when witnesses identified him as the man who fired an AK-47 assault rifle at Price's GMC Yukon Denali on Sept. 14.
"Our investigation has led us to believe that Robert Maxfield was involved in this crime and that he was the shooter," said Lt. Dan Rosenberg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "Up to this point, we have not been able to find him. That's why we are asking now for the public's assistance."
Price, a divorced mother of three with a home in Corona, was shot shortly after midnight outside an alleged Crips drug house in Compton -- a mile from the tennis courts where Serena and Venus Williams learned to play.
Police say a round from the AK-47 struck Price in the back of the head. A male companion who was driving Price's car was not injured.
Maxfield is the second Crips member charged in the slaying. Aaron Michael Hammer, 24, was arrested shortly after the killing. Last month, a Superior Court judge ordered him to stand trial for Price's murder.
It was unclear how or whether the issuance of the warrant for Maxfield would affect the case against Hammer. Police contend that Hammer fired a .22-caliber handgun at Price's car. An autopsy revealed that Price's wounds were not caused by a round of that caliber, police sources said.
Under California law, Hammer could be deemed criminally culpable in the slaying even if he did not fire the shot that killed Price.
Price, known to friends as "Tunde," graduated from Lynwood High School in 1990, worked as a nurse and later opened a hair salon in Lakewood with a friend. She also served occasionally as a personal assistant to her famous sisters.
On the night she died, Price was with her boyfriend, Rolland Wormley, 28. Wormley, a parolee who has been convicted of drug and firearms offenses, is listed in police files as a member of the Mac Mafia Crips -- a North Long Beach gang that police say has feuded with Compton's Southside Crips.
Early accounts of the shooting said that the SUV stopped outside the reputed drug house in the 1100 block of East Greenleaf Boulevard and that an argument ensued. Sheriff's officials later retreated from that account, saying the vehicle might not have stopped.
Investigators have since pursued a number of theories -- including the possibility that gang members shot at Price's vehicle believing they had been fired upon.
Hammer has told police that he and other gang members fired in the belief that they were under attack, police records show.
Witnesses have told police that they saw or heard gunshots coming from Price's vehicle before gang members drew their weapons outside the dilapidated house.
Witnesses have also told police that Price and Wormley had driven past the house earlier that evening and become involved in an altercation with men outside. According to the witness accounts, the Denali then sped away.
Just before midnight, several witnesses heard shots fired at another drug house around the corner, followed by the sound of screeching tires. Witnesses said that Price's Denali then approached the drug house on Greenleaf again and that someone fired a weapon from inside the vehicle, police records show.
According to those witnesses, Maxfield pointed an AK-47 at Price's car and fired a dozen rounds, shattering the rear window. Hammer allegedly fired his .22-caliber handgun. Police later recovered both weapons.
Wormley has denied being a gang member and has said that he and Price did not stop outside the house or argue with anyone there. He contends that the vehicle was fired on without provocation.
Wormley said he panicked after the shooting and drove Price to his mother's house, where they called police. Patrol officers arrived to find Price slouched over the front passenger seat of the SUV, covered in blood -- a half-empty bottle of Hennessey cognac and a pink makeup case at her feet. She was pronounced dead at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
At first, Wormley told officers that he was a passenger in the back seat of the SUV when the shooting occurred, according to police records. He later changed his story, saying that he was driving the Denali when Price was shot, the records show.
Authorities arrested Wormley that night on suspicion of committing an assault with a deadly weapon by firing on the Crips outside the alleged drug house. He was not charged with that offense, but was held for several days for allegedly violating his parole. He was later released. Tests found no gunshot residue on his hands or clothes.
"Mr. Wormley indicated that they were minding their own business" when Price was shot, Rosenberg said. "There is nothing to indicate that the suspects on Greenleaf were firing in self-defense. However, we are not ruling that out. Our role is to complete a comprehensive and unbiased investigation. We are still looking for any witnesses who can lead us in another direction."
Investigators have been searching for Maxfield and other Southside Crips for months. Undercover officers have staked out numerous Compton residences, including the home of Maxfield's family on South Burris Avenue.
In October, police raided houses on East Glencoe Avenue and Willowbrook Avenue and searched a room in the Crystal Park Hotel and Casino in Compton, where Maxfield had registered. Surveillance cameras had tracked Maxfield moving through the hotel, but officers never found him.
Detectives also enlisted the aid of Nevada police to raid several reputed Crips hide-outs in Las Vegas. Last weekend, police staked out a Compton residence where they suspected Maxfield was holed up, but they saw no sign of him.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times