Young, black and murdered

Shirley Hawkins | 2/11/2009, 5 p.m.

Los Angeles, CA -- Maurio Proctor, 22, and two friends were standing on Proctor's grandmother's porch in the Jordan Downs housing projects in Watts when an unidentified car spotted the trio and made a sharp U-turn.

"They drove up to my son and his friends and fired 17 rounds," said Reggie Sims, Proctor's father, who said the shooting occurred on Jan. 28, 2008. "Three of (the) bullets hit my son. One struck him behind the right ear, one on the right arm and another on his shoulder and in his thigh. He died instantly."

Sims said that Maurio's girlfriend was pregnant at the time. The baby was born two weeks after his death.

From Compton to Watts, from Lynwood to South Los Angeles, young Black men are losing their lives to gun violence nearly every week, a situation that leaves family members grieving and groping for answers.

The murder of young Black men has reached national proportions. The National Urban League's 2007 executive summary stated that the murder rate for Black males over 25 is nearly 7 times that of White males. It also reported that Black men under 25 years of age are 15 times more likely to die by homicide than their White counterparts.

Sims said that Maurio's death shocked and devastated his family. "After he died, my wife Annette and daughter Regina would wake up in the middle of the night crying," said Sims, a gang interventionist in the Jordan Downs Housing Project and a member of the Watts Gang Task Force. I finally moved the family to Harbor City. I didn't want to lose another son to gun violence."

Sims said the family received some relief when detectives notified him a few months later and said that their son's killers had been apprehended. "They arrested the driver, Daniel Colvin, and the shooter, Cedric Johnson. Colvin received fifty years plus two life sentences and Johnson received fifty years plus three life sentences. They'll never get out of prison," said Sims, shaking his head.

Police said that 70% to 80% of the shootings are gang related. "There are some gang tensions," said LAPD Sgt. Lloyd Scott. "Some suspects get away with the murders, but for the most part, we catch most of them. Last year, we had a clearance rate of 83%."

Lt. Lyle Prideaux, an officer in the homicide section of the LAPD Watts criminal gang homicide unit, said that although gun murders are down, they still continue. "I've gone to 60 to 65 murders," said Prideaux, who has worked in homicide for nearly two years. "Usually the gunfire is the result of gang feuds over narcotics."

He said that many of the gun shootings can be traced to gang initiations where suspects are ordered to kill another person. "That's one way the gang tests you to see whether or not they can trust you," said Lt. Liam Gallagher of LAPD's robbery/homicide division. "If you commit a murder, you can't snitch on the gang because they'll always have something on you."