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California

Three victims’ stories from a bloody month in Los Angeles

August victims

Desirae Jenkins, Davion Washington and Kenny Gardner were among the homicide victims in Los Angeles in August.

It was one of the deadliest months in years in Los Angeles. The 39 reported homicides in August were spread across this sprawling city; all but two of the victims were male; all but eight were shot to death.

Desirae Jenkins, 28

When Desirae Jenkins was in high school, her mother was found strangled in their Warren, Ohio, home. Jenkins testified at the trial, and a jury found her father, a basketball coach and pastor, guilty of the killing. Jenkins went on to college and eventually landed in Los Angeles. In recent months, she had gotten a job as a behavior specialist at a children’s clinic.

In late July, Jenkins went out to a seafood restaurant with her brother David Jenkins and his pregnant girlfriend, who was celebrating her 25th birthday. David Jenkins said his sister was excited about being an aunt.

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A few days later, on Aug. 3, she was shot to death by a 68-year-old man inside an apartment in Baldwin Hills. The man, whom she was dating, then killed himself.

When detectives searched the apartment, they found clippings of news stories from her mother’s murder trial, which led them to Chris Becker, who prosecuted the case in 2006.

Becker, who has prosecuted more than 100 murder cases in his career, said the family’s case stood out. He had kept in touch with Desirae Jenkins and used her as an example of perseverance when talking to community groups. In a 2011 e-mail that Becker shared, she quoted Vince Lombardi, the successful former Green Bay Packers coach, while talking about her success: “The harder the struggle, the harder it is to surrender.”

Davion Washington, 38

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After Valerie Sherman’s 19-year-old son Wayne Jamar was shot and killed in South Los Angeles in 2005, she moved away.

In August, she came back to bury her oldest son, Davion Washington. He was shot in Gramercy Park on one of August’s deadliest days: the 27th. That day, four people were killed in the city.

As Sherman boarded a plane from Texas late that night, she was in shock.

“My first reaction was, this can’t be happening,” she said.

Police said Washington was standing in a courtyard of an apartment building in the 2100 block of West Century Boulevard with a group of others when two men walked up and began shooting. Three people were wounded; among them was Wayne Jamar’s twin, who is Washington’s brother.

For Sherman, coming back to Los Angeles was a reminder of the pain she experienced 10 years ago when her youngest son was shot less than a mile away from where his brother would be killed.

Sherman says she wants to get involved with the community and speak out about violence. She hasn’t heard anything about Jamar’s case in years. Now she’s afraid Washington’s case will go unsolved.

“I don’t want him to be just another cold case,” she said.

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Kenny Gardner, 57

He never saw the bullets coming.

Kenny Gardner was hanging out with a longtime friend, sitting in the passenger seat of a white Buick Century when they pulled into his friend’s driveway in the 500 block of West 94th Street.

A man Gardner’s friend knew was riding by on a bike and stopped to talk to them at the car window. Two vehicles pulled up, and someone started shooting at them.

Gardner, his friend and the man on the bike were all struck by gunfire in the Aug. 26 incident. The other two survived. Gardner leaves behind six children and his partner of 31 years, Stephanie Holloway.

“He was the love of my life,” Holloway said. When the two first met, he helped her raise her baby boy. Holloway carries around Gardner’s cellphone, and when she wants to hear his voice, she calls and listens to the greeting on the voicemail.

It’s Gardner with a familiar, drawn out, “Hellllo Bayyyybeee.”

For his sister, Patricia Gardner, his death has ignited the panic attacks she used to get after her son, Brandon Terrell, 18, was shot to death in Long Beach in December 2005. Now, she says, she’s watching her mom go through what she experienced 10 years ago.

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When reached by phone, Estella Gardner had just listened to her son’s voice on his cellphone.

“He was my only son,” she cried. “It’s unfair what these people are putting us through.”

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com


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