‘Never thought it would be my kid.’ LAPD critic’s son is killed in drive-by shooting
Late Tuesday night, William Gude took to his Twitter account @FilmThePoliceLA — which is usually dedicated to holding the LAPD and other area law enforcement accountable — in a sudden burst of personal grief.
“My 22 year old son got shot,” he wrote. “I don’t think he made it.”
Gude later confirmed the worst after getting a call from his son’s mother, who was sobbing, and connecting with a hospital social worker: His son, Marcelis Gude, was dead.
Police said gunmen had rolled up to where Marcelis was standing, on the sidewalk at the mouth of an alley near the intersection of East 102nd and San Pedro streets in South Los Angeles, and opened fire.
An 8-year-old girl riding her bicycle in the area was also struck and wounded, police said. She was taken to an area hospital and was stable, police said.
“We must do better,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore tweeted about the shooting.
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On Wednesday morning, William Gude, who works in finance and lives in the Hollywood area, said he was still trying to wrap his head around what had occurred.
For the last year, he has walked the streets of L.A. documenting crime scenes and police work, filing complaints about what he viewed as abuses by officers — often against young Black men like his son — and trying to intervene to help crime victims whenever possible.
Now, his son was the victim.
“One day I’m emailing Chief Moore over some complaints that they screwed up on, or I’m tweeting about him being upset about the charges being dropped [against protesters] in Echo Park, and the next day he’s tweeting about the murder of my son,” Gude said in an interview with The Times.
“But you know what? He’s right. We need to do better,” Gude said. “I can’t blame the cops for this one.”
Police said Wednesday that they were still investigating the shooting and trying to better understand the circumstances involved. It often takes detectives a while to connect the dots in shootings, develop theories about motives or identify suspects. Sometimes they never do.
Gude said that, based on information he’d received from his son’s friends, he believed his son had been talking to a girl and was mistaken for someone else by gang members who control the area.
Gude said his son’s friends were all in shock. “They don’t understand it because my son isn’t a gangbanger, violent type,” he said.
Gangs have driven a startling spike in shootings and homicides in Los Angeles since last year, particularly in South L.A.
Through the end of last month, homicides were up more than 23% over last year and 32% over 2019. Homicides that police specifically attribute to gangs were up 43% over last year. Shootings were up more than 65%.
Backers of police have pointed to the violence as reason to defend the Los Angeles Police Department against budget cuts and increase the presence of police officers on the streets. Critics of the police have called for the LAPD’s budget to be slashed in favor of social services that they say would go farther in reducing crime.
William Gude said his son’s shooting had left him deeply saddened about the status of things in L.A., and pondering the best path forward.
Marcelis Gude had lived in Maryland with his mother before moving to Southern California to live with his father and attend high school, graduating from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, his father said.
He was most recently doing odd jobs like reselling shoes on Instagram and doing work for family friends, his father said. In his last texts to his son, William Gude had asked Marcelis if he would want to do some video editing work for him, because Marcelis was always creative in that way.
William Gude said he was “so glad” for their final exchange, choking up.
Marcelis was often smiling, his father said. He was always calm, relaxed, reserved. He barely ever cried as a baby. He never got in fights with other kids, his siblings or cousins. He “absolutely loved” California and L.A.
Gude’s activism filming the police really ramped up after the George Floyd protests last year. He initially kept it a secret from his son, but eventually Marcelis found out — and told his father he was proud of him.
Gude walked a lot, and felt he was seeing abuses by officers that no one was doing anything about. So, he started filing complaints. He’s not anti-police, he said, but wants more justice for young Black men in L.A.
Such justice must come in multiple forms, he said. His son’s shooting was proof of that.
“There’s an overpolicing problem. I think we spend too much money on policing when we should be spending more on other stuff,” Gude said. “At the same time, somebody murdered my son. Do we think that they shouldn’t be held accountable?”
Late Wednesday morning, Gude was tweeting again, noting that having the police chief tweet about his son’s killing felt “surreal and heartbreaking.”
But he wasn’t surprised. Even if his son wasn’t involved, Gude said he would be tweeting about the shooting of an 8-year-old girl, too.
“If this wasn’t my son I would be tweeting the story saying, ‘WTF are we doing here?’” he wrote. “Just never thought it would be my kid. We all think that way until it happens.”
When someone suggested others should get out and film the police while Gude mourns, so that he didn’t feel his mission would be neglected, he responded by saying he intended to keep being there himself.
“Nothing stops,” he wrote. “My son’s murder won’t end out of policy policing, nor the need to hold them accountable.”
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