When Venice High Coach Angelo Gasca met with some of his football players this week, he reminded them that they have to "watch out." If senseless violence can kill a man like Oscar Duncan, then anything can happen.
Days after the 23-year-old's slaying, family and friends continue to wonder why anyone would kill their homecoming king, football captain and youth minister. They know gangs still exist in Venice, but they have no idea why the violence had to claim one of the neighborhood's up-and-coming leaders.
"He is this community," said Duncan's former boss, Erikk Aldridge, the local Boys and Girls Club executive director. "If Oscar can't … move through life and raise a family, then we all have a very serious problem."
Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Department and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Police believe that about four males drove up in a white car Monday night and jeered at Duncan's girlfriend. Authorities say the assailants shouted a gang name as one of them fired a single shot, striking Duncan in the head.
"It's totally unfair," Duncan's brother Curtis Nettles said. "He died for something he stood against."
Police believe the act was random. Duncan was not part of a gang and had no criminal record, authorities said. The attackers are believed to have been gang members.
"He was passionate about God, music and Venice, in that order," Gasca, his former football coach, said.
Duncan was "that kid," according to Gasca — the one everyone knew, respected and genuinely liked.
He was that kid on the football team who always started singing on the bus ride home from an away game. That kid who joined the Boys and Girls Club at age 6 and never left. And he was that kid who embraced the nickname "Choir Boy" despite his athletic build. He loved his God, and "he wasn't ashamed of it," according to his church pastor, Michael J. Fisher.
Duncan, a youth pastor to more than 1,500, often attended church near home with his grandmother even after other family members changed congregations.
It was one of many ways he was devoted to his family.
"I would come home from the club, still up, drinking, my mind is thinking about a problem I'm going though, and it's 4 in the morning," Nettles said. "I'd call my brother. He'd come over to my house and talk with me until 6 a.m. Are you serious?"
All this makes it even harder for friends, family and police to understand how Duncan wound up dead.
Just three days before Duncan was shot, Aldridge said his staff had decided to promote the young man to a full-time teen services coordinator. Duncan got wind of the news, Aldridge added, but the promotion was never formally announced.
Had Duncan started his new job, Aldridge said, he would have taken charge of a number of new initiatives. Chief among them: creating a gang-prevention program.