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Woman says she heard the gunshots that killed her brother in Westmont

Benjamin Washington answered the phone and froze. His son, Mykel, was dead, daughter Jaquel Robertson told him. Washington immediately left his house and drove to the crime scene in Westmont. He had to see for himself.

A three-mile drive placed the 58-year-old father at the end of the 8800 block of South Vermont Avenue. Washington pressed through a crowd and stopped at the yellow crime scene tape.

He instantly recognized his son. A parent knows his kid, he said.

Jaquel Robertson, who lived with her brother, said Mykel Washington left the house around noon June 10 to ride with a friend to a liquor store. She was waiting for him to come back so she could tell him to pick up his socks in the bathroom. Minutes later, she heard gunfire.

“Those shots sounded so close, and I knew Mykel was nearby. I sort of put two and two together in my head, but it just didn’t make sense,” Robertson said.

Investigators said Mykel Washington, 24, had finished speaking with a friend on the corner when a vehicle pulled up behind him. A gunman stepped out from the passenger side and opened fire, striking Washington and three others, including a woman standing on the sidewalk, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Steve Rubino. Mykel Washington died at the scene, according to coroner’s records. The others survived.

Police are still canvassing the neighborhood for leads about suspects.

The shooting marked the 11th homicide — including two on March 25, when a man shot his girlfriend and was killed by sheriff’s deputies less than an hour later — in Westmont in 2015. So far this year, Westmont is the deadliest neighborhood in Los Angeles County, according to Times analysis of homicide data.

“Mykel was just out at the wrong time. And there was nothing I could have done to stop it,” Robertson said. “That’s probably what hurts the most.”

A couple of days before Mykel Washington’s funeral, which was Friday, Benjamin Washington and Robertson recalled their memories of him.

Robertson remembered her brother as her protector, although he was several years younger.

“Any time I would begin to see someone, he liked to act all big and want to meet them,” Robertson said, puffing out her chest and flexing her muscles, mimicking her brother.

Then she fell back into the couch and smiled. “I’m gonna miss him.”

Benjamin Washington pensively looked out the window as he mulled over the list of tasks for his son’s funeral. Then his relationship with his son flashed through his head.

Mykel Washington left his father’s home at age 19, after he refused to live by his father’s rules. But the two had rebuilt their relationship over the years. During one of their final conversations, they had reconciled.

“I didn’t know he still thought about that moment because we were so close now,” Benjamin Washington said. “I’m glad we at least had a chance to put everything on good terms before he was taken from us. I can find some sort of rest in that.”

— Jerome Campbell

Photo: Jaquel Robertson in the Westmont home she shared with her brother, Mykel Washington, who was shot to death nearby June 10. Credit: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times

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