A story for every victim

Mother of slain Compton rapper: 'He didn’t mean anything to the shooter, but he meant everything to us'

On a recent Sunday night, the pop of gunfire outside interrupted the blare of the television in Lesley Ivey’s bedroom. The bullets sounded close. Then she heard her 21-year-old son, Branden Davis, screaming.

Ivey ran outside and found her only son in the driveway, his chest rapidly rising and falling. “I can’t breathe,” he told her.

Frantic neighbors gathered around Davis, and her husband, Bill Ivey, leaned over his body, praying. Lesley Ivey stayed calm, thinking everything would be OK. At the hospital, after she was told her 21-year-old son was dead, Ivey was stunned.

“Up until that moment, I had this peace like he was going to be fine,” she said. “So when they told me, it was like a slap in the face. I didn’t expect it.”

Moments before the Aug. 1 shooting in the 500 block of North Sloan Avenue in Compton, Davis had gone outside to take out the trash. At some point, his stepfather spotted him outside, talking to a friend in a vehicle.

Davis was standing in his driveway when a person walked up at about 10:40 p.m., said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Det. Phillip Guzman. Words were exchanged, then multiple rounds were fired, Guzman said.

Investigators are examining surveillance footage. A dark SUV fled from the scene, Guzman said. So far, it’s unclear why Davis was shot.

“He didn’t fit a profile,” Guzman said. “There wasn’t any documentation of him being a gang member.”

Lesley Ivey knew her son as quiet and respectful. In addition to caring for his ailing late grandmother this spring, he also helped his mother through a heart transplant.

“I never had a problem with, ‘Where’s Branden; we can’t find Branden’; he’s gangbanging,” she said.

In the weeks after Davis was killed, Ivey began learning about her son through others’ eyes.

Ivey discovered that her son had recorded more than 1,000 songs and collaborated with a variety of artists. At night, he would lock himself in his room -- and a closet he converted into a do-it-yourself music studio -- and work on his songs.

One day, his mother was sitting in her house and overheard her son in the backyard, rapping. She was shocked. “Is that really Branden?” she wondered. His talent was apparent.

“I couldn’t believe how brilliant he sounded,” she recalled. “He sounded spectacular.”

Davis spent most of his time with a group of close friends. Justin Jones said Davis, who was known by the moniker “Marcel King,” dreamed of making it as an entertainer. He looked up to artists such as Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne, friends said.

“He had a dream, and he was pushing toward it,” Jones said. “His dreams were coming true.”

A few days after after the killing, a group gathered outside the Iveys’ home to remember Davis. Over the hum of news trucks parked a few feet from where Davis collapsed, people with solemn faces listened to Lesley Ivey address the crowd.

“He didn’t mean anything to the shooter, but he meant everything to us,” she said.

The group then marched around the block to show, in his mother’s words, that his “life mattered.”

Sitting at a dining table filled with cards, photographs of Davis and bouquets of flowers, Lesley Ivey said she couldn’t believe her son is gone.

“My new transplanted heart is just broken in two,” she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

Photo: Branden Davis. Credit: Family photo

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @nicolesantacruz and @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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