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Friends and family mourn 20-year-old who was ‘born to be a barber’

Mitchell Maya was a planner.

At 20, he was working toward his goal of opening a barbershop ​and was planning to take the state exam for his license in December.​ His mother bought him clippers at a young age, his sister said, and he practiced on everyone he could. Maya saw cutting hair as a ticket to give his family a better life.

For three years, he worked at a Boyle Heights barbershop and repeated a mantra: Time is money; no days off.

On Dec. 8 shortly after 8 p.m., Maya walked outside his Boyle Heights home and was shot. Once the gunshots stopped, his roommate went outside and couldn’t find him, said LAPD Det. Jose Ramirez. Maya was found in the street a block over.

The City Council recently approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. Police are unsure why he was targeted and are searching for leads.

“Right now, we don’t have a whole lot of information as to the motive,” Ramirez said.

After Maya was shot, he called his girlfriend, Ivette Ramirez, 21. “He just kept telling me, ‘They shot me,’” she said recently, sitting on a couch at her mother’s home.

One-year-old Jayden, her son with Maya, sauntered around the home, smiling and eating chips.

“He was so good to him,” Ramirez said of the father and son as her voice trailed off. Ramirez looked down and fidgeted with her hands.

Her best friend, Ashley Padilla, sat next to her. “We want to find out who did this to him,” Padilla said. “He had a career.”

Ramirez set up an altar for Maya at her mother’s home. There’s a belt he won in a barbering competition, a pair of clippers and framed photos of the couple with their son.

“I miss seeing him with Jayden,” Ramirez said.

Three days before Maya died, he organized a barbering competition in Highland Park. His sister, Meneysse Maya, 19, remembers being impressed by the turnout. She said she pulled her brother aside and told him how proud she was.

Mitchell Maya hugged her and told her that one day, they would open up their own shop. “He was always committed to his job,” she said.

Meneysse Maya said her family is struggling to pay for funeral expenses. They held a barbering competition and fundraiser last week, but the event was disrupted by the sound of gunfire, people who attended said.

Although Maya was quiet, even shy at times, his talent was noticeable, said Jose Rodas, who attended barber school with Maya.

“The moment you see him cut, it speaks louder than his own words,” Rodas said. “He was born to be a barber.”

At 25, Rodas was older than Maya, but he said he looked up to Maya.

“How could someone take someone so good in this world, someone so peaceful?” Rodas asked. “How could they just take them out like that?” 

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives in the LAPD’s Hollenbeck division at (323) 342-8964. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Photo: Mitchell Maya at a barbering competition in 2015. Credit: Courtesy of Ivette Ramirez

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