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Teen suspect arrested in shooting death of rising basketball star Semaj Miller

Semaj Miller shoots a free throw during a youth basketball game.
(Family photo)

More than a month after the shooting death of 14-year-old Semaj Miller, Los Angeles police have made an arrest in the case.

LAPD officers and the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force on Monday arrested a 17-year-old suspect in the slaying of Miller, who coaches said was a rising basketball star. The suspect, who was not identified because of his age, faces one count of murder on a juvenile, according to the L.A. County district attorney’s office.

Miller, who planned to enroll at Compton High this fall, was found unresponsive outside an apartment complex courtyard in the 100 block of East 87th Place in Broadway-Manchester on July 29 and was pronounced dead at the scene. The L.A. County coroner determined his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the torso.

LAPD detectives declined to comment about how they found the suspect.

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As loved ones grapple with the death of 14-year-old basketball prodigy Semaj Miller, his community is figuring out how to keep youths out of trouble amid a pandemic.

Miller’s grandmother, Ada Sandifer, 76, said the arrest is a step toward closure. “I’m so relieved that he was captured,” she said. “My baby did not deserve this.”

More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil for Miller last month in Compton, and rappers Master P and Snoop Dogg helped pay for the funeral.

Miller played youth basketball for Derrick Cooper, founder of the L.A. City Wildcats Youth Academy and a childhood mentor to James Harden, the 2018 NBA most valuable player for the Houston Rockets.

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Miller would have played varsity basketball for Tony Thomas, the former high school coach of San Antonio Spurs star DeMar DeRozan.

Both coaches said Miller was destined for stardom.

Coaches and loved ones say the COVID-19 pandemic played a part in Miller’s death. If he had a gym or park to play in, coaches said, Miller might not have been where he was when he was shot.

“I think a lot of people were there for Semaj, but because he didn’t have the right support system in place, he didn’t get the help that he needed,” Cooper said Tuesday. “We have to find a way to heal because we still haven’t healed yet and we’re not happy.”


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