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Family mourns 19-year-old killed at car wash over red shoelaces

Over the years, Tavin Price and his mother would take weekend trips to the car wash as a way of bonding.

On Monday evening, the car wash became a place for mourning, as his mother and a host of family and friends returned there to grieve her 19-year-old son.

Just three days earlier, Jennifer Rivers watched her car pass through the wash while Price stood nearby. He kept close to his mother as a result of a mental disability and didn’t socialize much with others.

A few minutes later, a man in a black sweatshirt confronted Price about his red shoelaces.

“They thought he was some gang banger, but we both told him that he wasn’t,” Rivers said at the vigil. “Tavin was a little startled by how the guy was acting and backed up. That’s not the way someone in a gang would act anyways.”

Rivers led her son away from the man, but he pulled out a gun and shot Price four times, Rivers said. The person, described by police as a black man in his late teens or early 20s, ran.

Rivers chased the gunman but lost sight of him. Price was rushed to a hospital where he died in surgery.

Antheyst Jarrett, a 27-year-old black woman, was arrested at the car wash after Saturday's shooting and has been charged with witness intimidation and conspiracy to commit murder, said Det. Chris Barling of the Los Angeles Police Department. Police said she was present during the confrontation between the gunman and Price.

At the car wash near the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Florence Avenue in Hyde Park, family members and friends took turns hugging Rivers and offering advice. Rivers looked at their faces through tinted glasses and gave silent nods.

Price, one of seven children, would have turned 20 on Monday. He had just accepted a warehouse job and was supposed to start Wednesday. 

“I just saw him last week, and he was really talking about getting his life together,” said Lori Johnson, a friend of Rivers. “Life wasn’t easy with his disability, but he was doing something anyways. Now we’ll never know how far he could go.”

The car wash stands on a dividing line between two rival gang territories, said Melvin Farmer, a gang interventionist who formerly associated with the Crips. He stood by Rivers throughout the vigil and denounced the killing as senseless. 

"When those gang members shot the poor boy in front of his mother, they broke the code. That’s a line that they're never supposed to cross,” Farmer said. “It’s getting really bad out here if this is what it’s coming to.”

LAPD Det. Eric Crosson, who is investigating Price's death, noted at least five other killings he has worked on in the area. About three blocks away, a 40-year-old man was killed two days before Price. Two blocks farther, a 28-year-old woman was killed two weeks earlier.

“This is an exceptionally violent area,” Crosson said.

Jennifer Rivers, James Price

In the days after the shooting, Rivers drank coffee to avoid sleep and looked through family albums with photos of her son. As a child, Price dressed up like a firefighter for Halloween, a dream he harbored.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see my son’s eyes rolling around as he cried, ‘Mommy I don’t want to die,’” Rivers said. “That’s my final memory of him. But I can’t let that be my strongest memory.”

As the vigil came to a close, Rivers' eyes strained to stay open. Waves of people gave her goodbye hugs and more advice. Rivers looked away blankly and shifted from one leg to the other.

As the last few people headed home, she made her way toward her family to catch a ride.

 It would be another sleepless night.

-- Jerome Campbell

Photos: (top) James Price attends a candlelight vigil Monday for his brother, shooting victim Tavin Price. (bottom) Jennifer Rivers, being comforted by her son James, attends Monday's vigil for another son, Tavin. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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