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Residents Denounce Teen’s Slaying

Times Staff Writer

Keva Byum was welcomed into a sisterhood Monday that she never asked to join and she can never quit.

Over the weekend, her son, Byron Lee Jr., spent his final moments in a South Los Angeles alley, on his knees and begging for his life, before being shot more than a dozen times, authorities said.

The murder has shocked a community that did not believe it could still be shocked. On Monday, about 200 residents gathered for a candlelight vigil for Byron near the spot where he died.

“This one really struck a nerve,” said activist Najee Ali, who spoke at the rally and tried to console Byum. “In all my years, we have never heard of a child pleading for his life. It just breaks my heart.”

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Witness have told Los Angeles police officers that the Fremont High School ninth-grader was riding his bicycle Saturday when two men got out of a car and killed Byron as he pleaded with his hands clasped.

Among the crowd Monday were several women who were no stranger to the inconsolable grief of Byum. They were mothers who also had lost children to violence.

Some did not know Byum. But they were drawn there from different corners of South Los Angeles to mourn the loss of yet another youth.

Marilyn McCall, 49, said her son Michael Mayberry Jr. was gunned down on a street corner in 2002 while celebrating the Laker championship.

“When is this going to stop?” she asked. “Can this be stopped? This is an epidemic.”

Linda Humphrey said her son Donald was shot in their home by an intruder.

“Nov. 25, 2003,” she said. “Five days after his 25th birthday.”

The 50-year-old mother of three threw up her hands.

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“We can’t go on like this,” she said. “The youth need to start respecting life.”

Rhonda Sutton said she counted herself lucky. Two of her children survived gunshot wounds.

Sutton, a friend of Byum’s, cried and lamented the death of the boy most in the neighborhood called B.J.

“This is madness,” she said. “Living here, you have to watch what you wear, how you look at people, where you are, in what gang’s territory. It just hurts.”

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Several residents, who did not want to be identified, said that Byron lived on a border between two rival gangs, and they suspected his death was retaliation for another killing.

While addressing the crowd, Ali asked that no one seek revenge for Byron’s death.

“We are going to try and use Bryon’s death to try and work for peace,” he said. “We have to try to move on.”


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