Police shooting victim is mourned

Times Staff Writer

Inglewood officials did not attend Michael Byoune's funeral Thursday, even though the City Council agreed earlier this week to pay for services for the 19-year-old who was killed in a police shooting that officials called "tragic" and that remains under investigation.

Paying for the services was "just the humane thing for the city of Inglewood to do," said Councilman Daniel Tabor, whose district includes the Morningside Park neighborhood where Byoune was killed. "We wanted to let the family know we understand their loss."

The City Council authorized the city attorney to work out an agreement with the Byoune family to assist with burial costs, which family members said amounted to about $7,400. During a vigil for Byoune last week, Mayor Roosevelt Dorn wrote a $1,000 personal check to the family for funeral costs.

Byoune was killed May 11 by two officers who fired on the vehicle he was riding in near Manchester and Crenshaw boulevards, apparently believing gunfire was coming from the car.

The driver, Larry White, 19, was injured and another passenger, Chris Larkin, 21, was grazed by the officers' bullets.

No guns were found in the car and no one has been arrested in the case. Police also said there is no evidence linking the three men to the initial gunfire, which witnesses said came from an unidentified gunman.

Last week, Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the police shooting was prompted by the actions of the unknown gunman and resulted in a "very tragic outcome." The officers, Brian Ragan, a 5 1/2 -year veteran, and Roman Fernandez, who has been with the department less than a year, have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of criminal and administrative investigations.

On Thursday, dozens of friends and family members gathered at the City of Refuge Church in South Los Angeles to say goodbye to Byoune.

"As a minister of the gospel, it's important to note that Michael is in the arms of our savior," said Eric Lee, director of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "But you can't get away from the fact that it was a tragic and untimely death. . . . When they take a child from us, they take our future."

Other mourners consoled Byoune's mother, Jackie Roberts, and said that her son's welfare had been the responsibility of the entire community, including the police. Several family members also made brief remarks about Byoune, including how his father died of cancer when he was 4 and how he dreamed of becoming a cartoonist.

"He wasn't out there gang banging," said one speaker. "I'm sorry for what happened to you Michael. . . . I'm gonna miss you."

Byoune was born in Los Angeles and was a graduate of the California Job Corps, family members said. Since then, he held odd jobs, sometimes working as a security guard and others as a seasonal employee at retail stores like Old Navy.

Some described him as a jovial 6-footer called a "big teddy bear" and earned nicknames like "Big Mike."

"He liked to dance. It don't matter where, . . . he liked to dance," said Demontre Quinney, 19, a cousin. "He'd laugh a lot and talk loud with a big ol' smile."

Before Thursday's service, civil rights activists said they had formed a watchdog group to monitor the police and county investigations into Byoune's shooting.

The goal of the group is to provide weekly updates to community members on the progress of the investigations and assure them that the inquiries are "fair, impartial and there is no rush to judgment to exonerate the Inglewood police officers involved," said Eddie Jones, of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Assn.

Paul Edwards, Byoune's cousin, said it was gracious for the city to pay for his funeral.

But he said the family remains outraged over the death and will pursue legal action against the Police Department. Still, Thursday's service was about celebrating Byoune's life, Edwards said.

"His family loves him," Edwards said. "He will be sorely missed."



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