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Officials to offer $20,000 for information in possibly racially motivated killing of Long Beach man

Officials to offer $20,000 for information in possibly racially motivated killing of Long Beach man
Officials plan to offer up to $20,000 in reward money for information that leads to an arrest in the July killing of Frederick Taft, whose family believes he was slain in a racially motivated attack in Long Beach. (Courtesy of David Malonson)

Long Beach and Los Angeles County officials plan to offer up to $20,000 in reward money in the hope of solving the July killing of a Long Beach man whose family believes he was the victim of a hate crime.

Police have yet to identify a suspect or motive in the July 21 shooting death of Frederick Taft, 57, who was gunned down inside a bathroom at Pan American Park during a family reunion, authorities and relatives said.

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A family friend previously told the Los Angeles Times that she saw a white man armed with a rifle fleeing the area shortly after Taft was shot, and his family contends Taft was targeted because of his race.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said she would ask the Board of Supervisors to post a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to an arrest in Taft’s slaying. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he plans to ask the City Council to match that figure at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“Fred Taft’s life mattered,” Hahn said, as dozens of his loved ones lined a room at Long Beach police headquarters. Some wore shirts that read “Justice for Brother Taft” or “Black Lives Matter.”

Investigators have offered little new information about the slaying since late July. Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna described the shooter as a white man in his 50s, approximately 6 feet tall with a medium build.

The man may have been wearing a dark shirt, light shorts and a hat on the day of the shooting, Luna said.

Luna would not comment on the type of weapon used.

There are no surveillance cameras in the park that could have captured images of the shooter, according to Luna, who would not say if investigators believed Taft was targeted.

“We are not ruling out any possibility for this case,” Luna said, while discussing the possibility that Taft was the victim of a hate crime. “Every option is absolutely on the table.”

Luna said there were “hundreds” of people in the park that day, and any one of them could have accidentally caught the killer in the background of a picture.

Taft was a truck driver and devoted family man who loved spending time with his grandchildren, relatives have said. More than 100 people visited the park in late July to hold a vigil in Taft’s honor.

Corie Stewart, Taft’s daughter, recounted a witness’ description of the slaying Tuesday morning. Her father, she said, was shot in the back of the head while using the restroom.

While the family “have concerns” over the way the case has been handled, Stewart said they ultimately just need to know why their loved one was killed.

“We are all devastated and heartbroken,” she said. “We need answers.”

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