Each Gang Shooting Is a Reminder of Grief

“We’ve coped with it pretty well,” Francis Toshima said of the death of her daughter, Karen, 27, who died a year ago in Westwood Village when she was struck by a stray bullet from a gang fight.

There is, however, the problem of the news.

In the same way that people who lose loved ones in an airline crash must cringe whenever another crash occurs, Francis Toshima suffers every time the television or radio or newspaper takes note of another gang killing.

“I see it right away,” she said from her Alhambra home, apologizing for the tearful cracking of her voice. “Any time they mention gangs on the news, anything about it, that reminds me of her.”


The Toshima family will mark Karen Toshima’s death with a private service today. They started a scholarship in her name last year in the art department of Cal State Long Beach, where she had attended school.

Meanwhile, the man accused of firing the bullet that killed Toshima, Durrel Dewitt Collins, 21, remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail, awaiting trial on a murder charge. Collins was ordered to stand trial last June after a preliminary hearing. A pretrial hearing in Santa Monica Superior Court is scheduled Friday.

Collins, a graduate of Banning High School and a reputed member of the Rolling 60s Crips, one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the city, was identified in court by three witnesses as the person who fired the bullet that hit Toshima.

Witnesses said the shooting took place after a series of fights broke out during the previous hour between rival gangs in a 2-block area in the heart of Westwood Village. Members of the Mansfield Hustlers Crips were standing in a parking lot when Collins and a group of Rolling 60s Crips strode down the opposite sidewalk, yelling gang slogans.

At that point, witnesses said, a Mansfield gang member picked up a plastic milk crate and walked halfway across the street toward Collins’ group. Two shots were fired. The first one hit Toshima.

Collins murmured two sentences to Santa Monica Municipal Judge Rex H. Minter while pleading not guilty.

“It’s a setup. I didn’t do (it),” Collins said.