Surrounded by a crowd holding blue and white candles, Jamiel Shaw Sr. stood Tuesday evening near the spot where his 17-year-old son and namesake was gunned down. With anguish, he remembered his dead son. With fear, he talked about his younger son.
“Dad, are they going to kill me too?” Thomas Shaw, 9, asked him, the father said to the group. “I told him ‘No, they’re not going to kill you.’ But in my mind, I thought, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
About 300 friends, neighbors and members of the community gathered at a vigil to remember Jamiel Shaw, an enterprising Los Angeles High School junior and star football running back who was shot to death just a few houses away from his home on a quiet street in the Arlington Heights neighborhood.
Councilman Herb Wesson and community activist Najee Ali attended. Jamiel’s younger brother Thomas was not there. Nor was Jamiel’s mother, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, who is serving her second tour of duty in Iraq.
The soldier, who is assigned to the Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, was believed to be en route to Los Angeles.
Police say two Latino men jumped out of a car and asked the teenager if he was a gang member. He did not answer and the men shot him, according to the police, who said Shaw had no gang affiliation.
“I don’t see it as black and brown. I see it as a gang problem,” Shaw’s father said as tears ran down his face. “I don’t want anybody to think this is a racial thing.”
Friends put comforting arms around the father while shouts of “Amen!” echoed through the crowd.
Shaw talked about carefully shepherding Jamiel -- coaching his sports teams when he was younger, forbidding him to go to clubs and parties where danger might lurk.
“I’m not a doctor or a lawyer; I have a GED. But I work to make a difference for my sons,” he said. “I want them to have the American dream. I thought everything I was doing was going to keep him from this.”
Shaw’s words came on a day when there was more violence -- a 6-year-old boy was shot in the Harbor Gateway area -- and more talk of how to stem it.
About 500 people gathered in South Los Angeles to discuss the recent spate of shootings.
Police Chief William J. Bratton told reporters later that the area where Jamiel Shaw was attacked, policed by the Newton Division, is nicknamed “Shootin’ Newton.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Bratton, who spoke along with Councilwoman Jan Perry, said gang-related homicides and violent crime are on the decline despite the recent shootings. Villaraigosa said police were “working feverishly” to find Shaw’s killer as well as the gunmen who shot the 6-year-old boy, leaving him in critical condition.
“What is particularly traumatic is that all these people were just innocent,” Villaraigosa said. “We have to stand up and work together to begin to take on this issue of violence in this city. We still haven’t done a good enough job.”
The mayor later went to the Shaw vigil and talked with family members.
Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed to this report.