Demicha Thomas smoothed back her hair as she looked over the transformed warehouse, her eyes darting as she ran through the checklist in her head. The posthumous birthday party for her son, Gerrik Thomas, needed to be perfect, she said.
Friends and family had helped her set up the all-white decorations at Chopper’s Den in Gardena on July 15. White sheets on the walls, a spacious dance floor, a DJ and flashing lights made the space feel like a party in the Hollywood Hills.
“The same day that he died, I knew I wanted to celebrate his birthday,” Demicha Thomas said. “This day was going to come anyways, and I couldn’t run from it. And I didn’t want to. I never want to forget my son.”
On a late-January evening, Gerrik Thomas was walking to his grandmother’s home near Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, while talking ...