Gang members sentenced to 50 years for killing teenager over red shoes in 2015
In an emotional Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, two gang members were sentenced for the killing of 19-year-old Tavin Price in front of his mother at a Hyde Park car wash last year.
Just before the verdict was read, Kanasho Shadrick Johns, one of three men being sentenced in the case, asked to address the court. He would be all right, he said, with a glance toward the audience.
Johns’ sister shouted approvingly, sparking protests from the victim’s family.
Jennifer Rivers, Price’s mother, had heard enough. She leaped to her feet and was restrained by family and a bailiff from heading toward Johns’ family and friends in the back of the courtroom.
“He had the audacity to sit in court, with their friends and family, and look at me like I’m nothing, and still say something,” Rivers said later. “I just snapped.”
When the proceedings resumed, Johns, 29, and Kevin Deon Johnson, 26, were read their sentences: 50 years in prison. Johns, whom prosecutors said fired the fatal shots May 29, 2015, was given an additional three years for being a felon with a firearm. The jury also found gun and gang allegations to be true.
A third man, Dwight Smith, 31, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and testified against Johns and Johnson. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week and could face 12 years in state prison.
Before the chaos erupted in the courtroom, Rivers spoke about what she lost when her son was killed.
“You have children that you care about and miss you,” she said, addressing the killers. “I pray you never get to see them again. I will never see my son again either. All I have left are old pictures from his funeral.”
Other family members shared memories of Price and lamented that several families had suffered from one act of violence.
“In this moment, you don’t realize the ramifications of your actions, but perhaps one day will understand when you are old,” Judge Charlaine Olmedo said to Johns and Johnson. "You have destroyed your lives, as well as the lives of your families and children.”
On the day of the killing, Rivers had stopped at a car wash in the 3300 block of Florence Avenue with her son and a family friend. While she vacuumed the car, Price and the friend went to a nearby smoke shop. Inside, Smith confronted Price about his red shoes, asking about his gang affiliation.
Smith and Johnson belong to a Crips-affiliated gang, the prosecutor explained during the trial. Members of the rival Bloods often wear red.
The friend told Smith that Price, who remained silent, had a mental disability and was not a gang member.
Prosecutors said that Smith and Johnson nonetheless perceived Price as a threat and made a plan with Johns to shoot him. After Price and the friend left the smoke shop, security camera video played in court shows Johnson leaving in his black Lexus sedan and Smith walking away.
About 10 minutes later, Johnson and Smith appear near the smoke shop in the surveillance footage. The cameras then spot Johns walking toward the car wash. Then Johns, the prosecutor said, approached Rivers’ vehicle and fired four times into Price’s back.
Photo: Jennifer Rivers, wearing a T-shirt bearing an image of her kissing her son at his funeral, in court on Wednesday. Credit: Jerome Campbell / Los Angeles Times