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Girl Stood Up for Herself, and May Have Died for It

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joyce Garrett was an independent 15-year-old who friends said knew how to take care of herself in a world that was far from perfect.

Early Thursday morning, however, the Gardena girl’s pride in standing up for herself may have contributed to her death.

Confronted by a gunman in a dark Wilmington alley as she dropped off a girlfriend after a night of dancing, Garrett refused to follow his orders to get into his truck.

“He told her, ‘Get in the truck or I’ll shoot you,’ ” said her 16-year-old friend several hours after the attack. “She said, ‘Go ahead and shoot me.’ And he did.”

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Despite efforts by neighbors to revive her, Garrett was pronounced dead shortly afterward at the scene. She suffered a single bullet wound in her chest.

Police are not releasing details about the crime, including descriptions of the assailant, because they are afraid he and his friends will flee.

On Thursday, her friend, who asked to remain anonymous for fear that the gunman would return to harm her, tried to make sense of a world without Joyce.

“We grew up together. I’ve known her since second grade,” the girl said. “She was smart, and she always was so happy. She’d do anything for me, and I’d do anything for her.

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“If someone would come up to her and try to start something, she would stick up for herself. She always did.”

Garrett, who played soccer and volleyball for Torrance High School and for local league teams, dropped out of school last year, her friend said. A few months later, she moved out of her mother’s house and into a friend’s Gardena home.

She dreamed of becoming a model and recently had paid a photographer to put together a picture portfolio.

“A lot of her boyfriends liked her a lot and wanted to marry her, but she always said no,” her friend said.

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The two girls, who had not seen each other in several weeks, were delighted to have some time together on Wednesday night and decided to go to Leonardo’s, a dance club near the USC campus.

The friend, who is seven months pregnant, said she sat on the sidelines and watched as Garrett danced.

“I loved to watch her dance. She was a great dancer,” the girl said.

When the two were preparing to leave, four men they did not know asked the girls to join them. The friend said she and Garrett refused and drove away.

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Although the four men followed them onto the Harbor Freeway in a pickup truck, she said, she did not think she and Garrett were in any danger.

As the girls entered an alley behind the 1500 block of North Avalon Boulevard shortly after 2 a.m., the truck pulled into their path and one of the men jumped out brandishing a gun.

“He was pointing the gun at me, . . . and I go, ‘Leave me alone, I’m pregnant!’ ” the girl said. “He looked like he had come out of a loony bin.”

The man then dragged Garrett from her car, threatened her and then shot her before jumping back in the truck, which sped away, the girl said.

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“I just can’t believe it,” she said, starting to cry. “How could this happen?”


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