A story for every victim

Michael Ali Hammonds, 20

Michael Ali Hammonds, a 20-year-old black man, was fatally shot on Sunday, Nov. 4, in the 16200 block of Hawthorne Boulevard in Lawndale, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records. 

Hammonds, an aspiring rap singer from Hyde Park, was with longtime friend Daevion Johnson, 21, and a group of other people accompanying a neighborhood rapper who had rented space at a studio, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Martindale. 

During a commotion when he thought he and his friends were going to be attacked, Johnson fired a gun three times and accidentally struck his friend Hammonds, the only injury, Martindale said.

Hammonds was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:47 p.m. The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound to the chest. 

Martindale provided details of the events of the evening, which he said involved two fights and much confusion. 

Johnson's older brother owns the studio, and he and Hammonds had come down that night to watch and help, the investigator said. 

Around 7 p.m., the neighborhood rapper, who is a gang member, went outside to have a cigarette and spotted a man from a rival gang he claimed had pointed a gun at him the month before. 

The rapper's friends attacked the man, who had been sitting on a bus bench. They began "kicking and stomping him," Martindale said, until a bus pulled up and the driver shouted at them to stop before they killed the man. 

The beating victim walked away, yelling that he was going to get his gun and come back, and everyone else went back inside the studio, Martindale said. 

Without telling the others, the neighborhood rapper contacted two friends to come over and help provide protection, Martindale said. As they were settling back into the studio, someone began pounding on the main outside door. The group ran outside again, to be confronted by the beating victim, who had returned. 

As they ran outside, one member of the group slipped a small-caliber automatic gun to Johnson, whose job was to hold the self-locking door open so people could get back in. Johnson told investigators he had never used a gun before and put it in his pocket, Martindale said.

The group chased the beating victim to a nearby liquor store and then came back to the studio. As the last people filed inside, two men Johnson said he'd never seen before came running up to the door. 

Those men were the friends that the neighborhood rapper had called, Martindale said, but Johnson didn't know them, and he and others assumed they were with the beating victim, coming for revenge.

"Someone yelled, 'Shoot them, shoot them,' and Johnson, who is not a gang member, thinks he's about to lose his life, so he pulled the gun out of his pocket and shoots at them," Martindale said. "Unbeknownst to him, off to his left is his friend Michael Hammonds, trying to get inside, and his buddy gets shot in the chest."

No one else was injured, Martindale said. After the shooting, Johnson allegedly told investigators he threw the gun down the long hallway. "Someone picked it up and it was long gone" by the time deputies arrived, he said. 

Initially, Johnson didn't tell investigators he was the shooter, Martindale said, but he went home and told his mother what had happened. A few hours later, accompanied by his mother, he turned himself in at the Lawndale sheriff's station. 

Hammonds and Johnson had been good friends for at least five years, Martindale said, and neither was involved in gangs. Johnson "was very remorseful in his interview," he said. "The video evidence and physical evidence match his statement, so we have no doubt he's telling the truth."

Johnson was arrested and jailed after he gave his statement on Nov. 5 but released three days later after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to press charges. 

The DA's office "found there was no malice, " said Lt. Derrick Alfred. "He was acting in fear for his life and the lives of others, and the shooting was unintentional and accidental, so he was released.”

Martindale said he and his partner, Sgt. Gina Eguia, agreed with the DA's decision. 

"We did speak to Michael's family, and they understand why the DA didn't file charges," he said. "They know Daevion quite well, and they know he would never intentionally do anything to hurt Michael. ... Really, it was two lives destroyed by that shooting, no doubt. This will be hanging over his head for a long, long time." 

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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