A story for every victim

A son died on Christmas four years ago, and a killer is still at large

Each day, James Shorts sees his son's smiling face in photos stacked in drawers and on the kitchen table. There's a photo of Brandon as a boy, pictures of Brandon at prom.

It's been four years since the 24-year-old died on Christmas Day after being shot in Chesterfield Square.

"I miss him calling me 'Pops,'" Shorts said Tuesday afternoon as he stood at the spot where his son was shot near South Western and West Florence avenues. A lottery ticket poked out of a blue shirt pocket.

With the killer still at large, Shorts' hopes for justice hinge on whether more witnesses will come forward and talk to investigators about the shooting. He knows it's a long shot in a neighborhood where trust of the police is not instinctual. A reward in the case expired last year, but a $50,000 renewal is pending with the City Council.

On Jan. 16, Brandon would have been 29. His mother, Angela Shorts, often spends hours trying to think of anything she forgot to tell detectives. Sometimes she drives past groups of men hanging out in the area where Brandon was shot, and she wonders if any of them know.

Kendra and Angela Shorts

"I'm always thinking," she said. "Every day something different runs through my mind."

LAPD Det. Dave Ross, who has a picture of Brandon on his desk as a reminder not to give up, hopes the money will put him one step closer to a suspect. Investigators have a trail, but they need a person to identify the shooter.

Brandon was shot on Nov. 18, 2010. It was a sunny day, and class had just let out at Horace Mann Middle School a block away. Kids were walking the streets.

About 3:25 p.m., he was driving south on Western Avenue in a navy blue 2000 Lexus. He was stopped at a light at West Florence Avenue when three people on bikes approached. One person asked Brandon if he was from a gang, then shot into the car.

"It's not like it was something that happened at 1 o'clock in the morning in a bad neighborhood," Ross said.

Ross believes the shooting could have been tied to a housewarming party that Brandon — who was not a gang member — threw with his girlfriend the previous Sunday.

Brandon Shorts

At the party, a person borrowed Brandon's car to get food. The car could have been singled out as belonging to a gang member; when Brandon pulled up to the intersection that day, he was in an area occupied by two rival gangs.

At first, his mother said, Brandon pulled through. After three weeks, he was out of his bed, excited to get out of the hospital. On Dec. 23, doctors said his stomach was leaking and filling with air. Bullet fragments were also found, according to the autopsy report. Brandon needed surgery. His mother watched as Brandon was wheeled into the operating room. He gave her a thumbs up.

His parents prepared for a Christmas with their son. Brandon's father baked him a sweet potato pie for the occasion.

On Christmas Day, James Shorts got a call. Brandon's heart had stopped beating.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Criminal Gang Homicide Division at (213) 485-1383. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photos: (Top) Brandon Shorts' sister Kendra, father James and mother Angela at the spot where Brandon was fatally shot in November 2010. With the killer still at large, their hopes for justice hinge on whether more witnesses will come forward and talk to investigators about the shooting. (Middle) Kendra Shorts, left, and her mother Angela stand on Western Avenue near the spot where Brandon Shorts was shot in 2010. Credits: Stuart Palley / For The Times. (Bottom) Brandon Shorts. Credit: Family photo

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