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Family, friends mourn victim of Christmas slaying

On Monday, several neighbors, family members and friends gathered around a memorial in South Los Angeles to pray and question why a young mother was shot to death there on Christmas Day in front of her 3-year-old daughter.

Some believe Kashmier James, 25, was killed in a case of mistaken identity.

“I think the guys who shot her were looking for someone driving the same car she was driving,” said Tarsha Ayers, a cousin of James. “They just thought she was someone else.”

Police have not established a clear motive in the shooting.

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After celebrating the holiday with family, James was heading home to Riverside when she stopped about 10:20 p.m. Saturday to visit a friend in the 1700 block of 85th Street near Western Avenue, police said.

As James stood in the street outside her friend’s home, two men in a blue Chevrolet Tahoe pulled up and stopped, police said. One of the assailants got out and fired nine shots at James, striking her at least once in the head.

“The sound was so loud, it was so violent, that you knew someone was hurt,” said neighbor Mary Walker, 45. “We all rushed out to help.”

Several neighbors called 911.

When Walker got to the victim’s car, she found the child strapped in the backseat and James lying nearby with a bloodied face. Walker scooped up the child, who was unharmed, and carried her home to wait for the police, she said.

“The child “saw the whole thing,” Walker said. “She was shaking. She wasn’t crying, but she was asking for her mommy. I told her we was getting her mom some help.”

James was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators so far have “no confirmation or concrete evidence that the incident was gang-related,” LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said.

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Those gathered at the memorial Monday questioned why anyone would want to kill such a sweet-natured young woman.

“She was my ace. She was my right-hand person,” said Ayers, 25, who grew up with James and stood on the street, wiping her eyes. “They didn’t care that she was a mom, that her daughter is not going to have a mom now.”

On the ground beside Ayers were votive candles laid out in a 4-foot cross. Bouquets of red, white and pink carnations were strewn in the grass. Stems of deep red roses spelled the word “love” and a white paper tucked under the flowers held messages from visiting family members.

One read: “We all love you auntie Kash. You were the best!”

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Things in James’ life seemed to be falling into place recently, family and friends said. The King Drew Medical Magnet High School graduate had landed a nursing job three months ago and was excited to begin saving for a house for her family.

Her childhood friend Adel Peters stood silently, staring at her memorial for several minutes before turning away to shield his eyes.

“She was just a good person,” he said. He and James had known each other since sixth grade and attended the same middle and high schools. “I had to come here to really let it sink in, to picture in my head what happened.”

She was almost engaged to the girl’s father, he said. Now, he will have to raise their daughter on his own.

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“A man can’t raise a girl on his own,” Peters said. “A girl needs her mother.”

shan.li@latimes.com


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