A story for every victim

Blacks still top Compton's homicide rolls, despite demographic change

Since their 13-year-old son, Draysean Earl, was gunned down six years ago in Compton, his parents have paid close attention to the news when someone else is killed.

Each year, they hold a march on May 5, the day of the shooting , and each year it seems that another member of their son's circle has been killed.

In 2013, two were gunned down near a McDonald's. In 2014, two more were killed just outside Compton.

In December, Lontrell Lee Turner, 16, was shot to death in Compton on his way home from church. Lontrell knew friends of Draysean.

"As parents we rack our brains to figure out something to stop it, but how do we stop it?" said Sean Earl, Draysean's father.

In a city where the black population is on the decline — falling to a third of the population, according to 2010 census statistics — blacks make up a disproportionate number of homicides in the city.

At one point in Los Angeles' history, Compton was an all-black community. Now, the city of about 100,000 is primarily Latino. Despite the shrinking African American population, however, more than 60% of the homicide victims in Compton last year were black. This year, all but one of the seven victims have been black.

Compton Mayor Aja Brown didn't respond to requests for comment.

When Sgt. Fred Reynolds started his law enforcement career with the now-disbanded Compton Police Department in the 1980s, the majority of the city's population was black. He said the dominance of African American gangs could be one reason for the high homicide rate among the remaining blacks.

"The black gangs are still entrenched in Compton, even if the demographics have changed," said Reynolds, who is now a homicide detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

But George Tita, a criminologist with UC Irvine, says it's not just about race and ethnicity. He said socioeconomics play a part too. Tita said he saw a similar pattern in certain neighborhoods when he did a study examining interracial killings in South Los Angeles over seven years.

He said the people who stay are the ones who can't afford to leave.

"You're leaving behind the most vulnerable and the most likely to become involved in violence," he said.

It has been 20 years since Vicky D. Lindsey's 19-year-old son was killed. Lindsey, an activist and lifelong Compton resident, has helped many families cope with violence through the years. Sometimes, it hits close to home.

Recently, she heard that one of her younger son's friends was shot to death at a Compton park. He was 29.

Each killing brings more hurt, she said.

"It takes a toll on you at times," she said. "You think, is it going to hit me, is it going to hit someone in my family?"

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Times staff writer Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.

Photo: Vicki Lindsay, center, with fellow activists Pam Carolina and Teresa Haro, at the unveiling of a billboard in Compton in 2010. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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