Tensions ran high during a candlelight vigil for 26-year-old Bryan David Moore at Campanella Park in Compton Sunday as community activists, family members, and concerned citizens gathered to protest his fatal shooting.
Moore, a Compton resident, was shot multiple times Thursday around 6 p.m. in the 1000 block of East 150th Street. Witnesses said that Moore was allegedly gunned down by sheriff’s deputies after he jumped from his girlfriend’s jeep and began running.
“They shot him in the back like an animal,” said Lorraine Smith, Moore’s aunt. “He got shot twice in the buttocks and several times in the back. They won’t even let us see his body,” said Smith.
Alice Smith, the mother, expressed her anger over her son’s death. “I want justice,” said the distraught mother as she faced news cameras.
During the candlelight vigil, a fight broke out in the park’s parking lot, prompting sheriff’s deputies to arrive and question residents.
Chanta Deeminter, 26, Moore’s girlfriend, said she was stunned that sheriffs allegedly shot Moore, who was unarmed. “If a man is running away from you and you shoot him in the back, how is he a threat?” she said.
The Sheriffs Headquarters Bureau released a statement saying that Moore jumped a fence and was seen holding his waistband. Sheriffs stated that when Moore failed to show his hands after being ordered, the deputy fired his duty weapon at the suspect, striking him.
Dozens of friends and relatives of Moore milled around in the park, many shedding tears as they recalled the young man with the bright smile.
“Justice needs to be done. The police need to stop shooting our babies in the street,” said Moore’s aunt.
Deeminter recalled the phone call she received from Moore on Thursday around 3:45 p.m. “Bryan was around the corner from my house and he said to come get him,” Deeminter recalled. “I drove my Jeep Cherokee around the corner and he got into my car on 149th Street. As we turned on Wadsworth Avenue, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a sheriff’s car speeding up. I slowed down, and when Bryan saw that they were sheriffs, he said, ‘I don’t want you in this,’ recalls Deeminter, who said that Moore had just been released from jail and was fearful of going back. “He jumped out of the car and started running,” said Deeminter, who said that Moore suffered from schizophrenia and depression.
Deeminter said that the officers began chasing Moore and that they ended up in a neighbor’s back yard. Minutes later she heard three gunshots. “I did not hear them shout ‘Halt’ or ‘Stop!” recalls Deeminter. “I ran into the back yard and said, ‘What’s going on?’ But I already knew Bryan was dead.”
Deeminter said while Moore lay on the ground, she frantically tried to call the ambulance on her cell phone. “But before the ambulance got there, within about five minutes, 20 cop cars showed up. About 10 sheriff’s deputies started taping off the back yard with yellow tape. They were moving Bryan’s body and I said, “Why are you moving a dead body?’ They looked at me like I was crazy. They were very disrespectful and they kept telling me, ‘Get back before we take you to jail,’ so I walked to the front of the house.”
According to Deeminter, two witnesses saw the incident. “The next day, I talked to one of the neighbors who had been peering through the blinds when the sheriffs approached Bryan. She said she heard the gunshots and saw two sheriffs lift Bryan’s body up. Then she said the sheriff and his partner looked at each other as if to say, ‘Oh, shoot,’ like they knew they had made a fatal mistake.”
Deeminter said she also talked to the second witness who said he saw the incident through his downstairs bedroom window. “He told me that he saw paramedics working on reviving Moore’s body, but that the body kept flatlining and that Bryan was blue in color. ‘They murdered an innocent man,” Deeminter said the witness admitted.
Deeminter said that after Moore was shot, she and family members rushed to Harbor-UCLA Hospital around 6 p.m. “The doctor pronounced him dead at the hospital around 6:45 p.m. But I knew he was already dead in the back yard at least an hour earlier. I want to know, ‘Why did they move a dead man’s body and not wait for the coroner?’”
Attorney Milton Grimes, who is representing the family, said, “I talked to a couple of witnesses and they said Moore didn’t have a weapon. It bothers me when a young black man is shot down by the same police who are supposed to protect us. It’s wrong that the police shot an unarmed man and I’m waiting to see the rest of the evidence before we file charges.”
At the candlelight vigil, Allen Jones, 19, a friend of Moore’s, shook his head in disgust. “What happened to Bryan wasn’t right. This is cold-blooded, straight-out murder. Things have to change and it has to start right here with us,” said Jones, who recalls Moore as being “very humble.” “I knew him from the neighborhood,” recalled Jones. “We used to chill out and talk about the future.”
“This is a wake-up call,” said William Carter, pastor of the Long Beach-based Crossing Ministries. “Sometimes things happen to bring us closer together and make us stronger. We have to go forward. God is in control, he knows what he’s doing.”
Zarell Johnson, the godmother of Deeminter, said, “We have tolerated so much hatred and violence in our community that we can’t breathe anymore. There’s no respect for the person. We are human beings. These police need to stop killing our next generation.”
Deeminter said that she is determined that Moore did not die in vain. “Bryan had the sweetest personality in the world,” she said tearfully. “He had a beautiful smile that would melt your heart. He always wanted to help somebody and he was a big role model for the youth.”
Deeminter said that she plans to work within the community to bring about peace. “After I came home from the hospital, I decided to get people involved because this man was murdered. These killings have got to stop. How much more can we endure? Something has to be done. I don’t want hush money for this, I want victory.”
Deeminter said that just before his death, Moore was “turning his life around.” “Bryan had just enrolled in Chester Adult School in Compton and he wanted to start a group home. He was an ex-gang banger and he wanted to let the youths know that they could turn their lives around just like he did.”