On a Sunday night nine years ago, musician Kevin Robert Harris II was sitting in his parked car outside an Inglewood studio when a car pulled alongside him and someone inside opened fire, emptying numerous rounds into the promising young artist.
Voviette Morgan, FBI special agent in charge of the criminal division in Los Angeles, said the number of rounds and different guns used “is significant … [and] unusual in an investigation like this.”
The young music producer known as “Track Bully” died 40 minutes later in a hospital Sept. 20, 2009.
Immediately, the case seemed odd to investigators. Harris had no gang ties, no obvious enemies and no troubled relationships, officials said. Instead, he was a churchgoing, young African American man from Westchester whose music had gained the attention of Ice Cube and others, according to investigators.
Now, the case is getting a new look, and officials think Harris’ music might have played a role in his death.
Sources familiar with the investigation say agents and detectives think the 21-year-old musician’s slaying may have been the result of jealousy from a music rival.
The very talent that made Harris special cost him his life, authorities say.
“Kevin was a really good kid,” said FBI Special Agent Sean Sterle, who has spent hundreds of hours interviewing those who knew the producer.
The last nine years have been torture for Harris’ family.
As the investigation grew colder, the sorrow of his parents, Kevin and Katheryn Harris, turned to resolve. They prodded Inglewood detectives and the FBI into making the killing a priority. They called weekly until their cries could not be ignored, they said.
“We want justice more than anything that could ever be imagined because that was a cowardly, despicable act that you perpetrated on our son, our loving son that cared about everyone,” said Kevin Harris Sr., his father, speaking at a news conference.
Aided by FBI special agents using high-end forensic techniques and cellular tracking, Inglewood investigators began to make progress.
On Thursday, the FBI put up a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. With Inglewood police already offering the same amount, someone with knowledge of the shooting stands to receive $50,000.
“We know there is valuable information people have that will allow us to get to the finish line,” Morgan said.
His father begged those who know what happened to come forward. “He was a young man who cared for everyone,” he said. The older Harris said the killer or killers did not just shoot his son. “They overkilled my son,” he said, adding that guns are too readily available.
“Let your conscience be your guide. We have $50,000 for you now,” he added. Anyone that knows these people [or has] heard anything about this, all we need is one piece of evidence to get this going. And in case anyone wonders out there, yes, we are still crying about Kevin and we will until our hearts can have justice.”
Katheryn Harris, battling back tears and occasional sobbing, added, “I just would like to have a fair date in court for my son,” she said. “If black lives matter, then stop killing each other.
“Why would [God] give birth to an angel, then someone comes and takes his life away for no reason?” she asked at the news conference, with FBI officials appealing for help in identifying the shooter or shooters.
Her son was her life, she said. The younger Harris learned to play piano as a freshman at St. Bernard Catholic High. By his sophomore year, he was composing, mixing and looping beats. His name Track Bully came from his skills at mastering the beats.
His friend Jimmique Parsons, told The Times that after initially sampling and mixing songs from popular hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and Dr. Dre, Harris quickly moved to composing his own music, then mixing it and looping it digitally with other instruments.
“He would go into the studio, play around on the piano for an hour or so, then start recording…. Then he would find chords to bring in, then drums,” Parsons said. “It was amazing; he would start from scratch.”
After high school graduation, Harris worked a number of odd jobs during the day and spent his nights in the studio, Parsons said. He worked at Urban Outfitters, Vons and eventually at a mattress store while at night the studio paid him to mix tracks for local artists.
Coming from a military family, he was considering enlisting in the U.S. Navy. A week after his death, his mother said, she got a letter from a Navy recruiter.
Speaking directly to her son’s killers, she asked that they surrender: “You not only destroyed him, you destroyed me.”
Anyone with information is urged to call Inglewood police at (310) 412-8771 or the FBI’s L.A. office at (310) 477-6565.
7:20 p.m. Updated with background about Harris and his career.