Prosecutors have charged a 53-year-old man with stealing a hearse containing a casket carrying a 19-year-old homicide victim from outside a South L.A. church.
Ronnie Skipper was chased down by Jonté Lee Reed's family Saturday morning as he drove off in the Cadillac hearse carrying Reed's body, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.
The hearse had been stolen outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said Skipper, who had previously been convicted of attempted robbery, faces grand theft auto, driving or taking a vehicle without consent and unlawful transportation of remains.
The black hearse was left idling as the funeral director arranged flowers inside the church at 4901 Avalon Blvd., said Shirley Little, wife of Pastor Kenneth Little.
He went outside to collect the casket and noticed the hearse was missing, so he immediately called a group of ministry friends to help track down the missing car, she said.
Family headed to the funeral were notified of the theft and spotted the hearse.
Family members grieving for Reed, who died Dec. 9 after he was shot while seated in a car in South Park, forced Skipper to pull over, then exchanged words with him.
Authorities arrived to find relatives of Reed holding Skipper down near the hearse, prosecutors said.
In the end, the hearse and casket were returned to the church and Reed's funeral services continued.