A story for every victim

Teen, troubled by effects of gang violence, became a victim of it

About 3:30 one morning in June, 16-year-old Larry McKay logged in to Facebook to post a status update. It began, “Man life is crazy these days …”

He wrote about people dying, “people killing,” and “hoods going back and forth.”  

“It’s not cool,” he wrote. “That’s somebody’s loved ones.” 

He went on to say he had just watched a documentary on YouTube called “Why We Bang.” The 75-minute film examines gang life in Los Angeles. 

McKay went on.

“And that just made me look at this gangbanging life real different, but the most crazy part is you don’t know what you getting yourself into … until it’s too late to get out of. But once you start you can’t stop. But remember you can always try to change.”  

Less than a month later, on July 16, his mother, Lakisha Thomas, glanced outside her door and saw Larry McKay on the porch.

It was 10:15 p.m. She went into her room and fell asleep. At 12:08 a.m., a person near the 1400 block of West 51st Street in Vermont Square called 911 reporting a man down, according to coroner’s records.

People in the area had heard an argument, then gunshots. Police found a 16-year-old on the sidewalk.

He was wearing a maroon sweatshirt and green shorts. “Only God Can Judge Me” was tattooed on his clavicle. 

There was a bright red stream of blood running from a single gunshot wound to his left temple onto the street. He had scrapes and cuts on his head and his hands, and it looked as though he had been in a fight. 

While detectives were trying to find out who the teenager was, Thomas was still sleeping.

At 3 a.m., she woke up and noticed her son was not home. By 6 a.m., detectives knocked on her door, and Thomas became another mother who has lost a child in the area.

At her home recently, she remembered McKay, affectionately known as “Budha,” as a teenager who liked taking selfies and playing basketball and was looking forward to prom. He wanted to be a barber and had bought clippers. He’d bug his older siblings for rides to the mall.

“He didn’t know about the streets like that,” Thomas said.

At McKay’s funeral, his father addressed the crowd. He said he was incarcerated when McKay was killed.

“I should have been there for him,” he said. “Because what these streets do, they eat your kids up.” 

His grandfather, Terry Gibson Sr., took McKay fishing every chance he got. McKay loved Gibson’s homemade biscuits.

“You see it on Lifetime; you see it on TV,” said Tiffany Givens, his 34-year-old aunt. “But you never expect it would happen to you.” 

On Aug. 27, what would have been his 17th birthday, his family took a bright blue cake trimmed with green icing to the cemetery. 

“Happy Birthday Budha,” it read. “We love and miss you so much.”

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Larry McKay's  grave at Inglewood Cemetery. Credit: Lakisha Thomas

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