Los Angeles, CA. – The parents of Clayton Montgomery, 15, described their son as an active, lively teen.
“He loved football, basketball and dancing,” recalls his mother, Juana, who said her son eventually danced with the professional clown troupe Tommy the Clown.
One of six siblings, Juana said that Clayton was close to their family and that he was also very protective of his four sisters.
“He wanted to be a professional football player, he loved the Chargers,” said Juana who shared that Clayton attended Washington High School.
“Clayton was a good boy. I had him in church.” The mother added that her son was not gang affiliated.
But fate dealt Clayton a fatal hand Saturday evening, Jan. 10 as he strolled down Western Avenue with two friends.
According to witnesses, Clayton was walking down the street around 7:30 p.m. when a car slowly pulled up to the curb. The suspects in the car allegedly called out, “What set you from?”
When the teen didn’t answer, the suspect or suspects pulled out weapons and opened fire.
The bullets wounded Clayton’s two friends. Clayton was shot four times and crumpled to the ground. According to detectives, the car sped off northbound on Western Avenue.
The murder happened in a neighborhood that the family of eight had fled to escape a troubled environment. “We had moved from that neighborhood about six years ago because it really was no good for the kids.”
But both parents said that Clayton loved the old neighborhood.
“He was always returning to the old neighborhood because he had friends over there,” said his father, Terrence Thompson who recalled that the family had celebrated Clayton’s 15th birthday on Nov. 15. “Clayton and his friends loved playing football and going swimming at Jesse Owens Park. Clayton liked to go to the courts to play basketball.”
The night Clayton was shot, Poochie, an old family friend, called the family on her cell phone.
“She said, ‘Juana, Clayton got shot.’ I threw the phone down and started screaming and hollering.”
According to Juana, Poochie ran out of the house when she heard the gunshots and was just a foot away from Clayton as he lay gasping for breath on the sidewalk. “She said his eyes were open and his chest was heaving like he was struggling to breathe,” said Juana.
“They were trying to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and that he was squeezing a neighbor’s hand.”
“Poochie said, ‘It doesn’t look good,’” and ten minutes after the shooting, paramedics arrived to rush Clayton to the trauma unit at Harbor-USC Hospital.
“When we got to the hospital, the doctors and nurses told us to wait in the chapel,” remembers Juana, who said she arrived with relatives and friends. “I said, No, I don’t want to go into the chapel, because I felt that if I waited there, it wouldn’t be good. It was just something that I really can’t explain. I just knew,” stated the mother, who said she fervently prayed that Clayton would survive.
Juana remembers that ten minutes after arriving at the chapel, a team of doctors approached the family. “They said they had done everything they could to save Clayton, but he didn’t make it.”
“After that, I just faded away and started screaming. This shooting is like a nightmare or a dream,” she said tearfully. “It’s going to be hard for me because Clayton and I were so close. I still really can’t believe that my son is gone.”
Detectives from the 77th criminal gang homicide division are investigating the shooting, but report that so far report they have no leads.
The Victims of Crime Division of the City Attorney’s Office has donated funds to bury Clayton.
Juana related that the family is gripped in grief. “If I could confront the killers who murdered Clayton, I would tell them that they really need to turn themselves in and pray to God that nothing happens to their family.”