A story for every victim

Timothy Johnson, 37

 Shortly after 3 a.m. on Nov. 25, a 37-year-old black man named Timothy Johnson was shot multiple times on East 92nd Street in Watts as he returned home from a party. By the time police arrived, Johnson was dead, and the people who had been on the street with him had disappeared. A pit bull puppy chained in the yard was curled up on his body for warmth.

Johnson's killing, like most of the others described in the Los Angeles Times' online Homicide Report, drew scant attention from media accustomed to a metronome beat of black-on-black killings. But such killings in South Los Angeles often contain within them interlocking strands of other murders -- other cases of thwarted justice.

When the bare details of Johnson's murder were posted on the blog, more than 100 people commented. The excerpts below -- cut for space, but otherwise unedited -- encapsulate the effect of one such murder cluster on a small community.

Johnson, whose street nickname was "Sinister," had long been a member of a Green Meadows Blood gang associated with 89th Street in Watts, according to police. He had been connected by police to four homicides. In 1989, he was acquitted of two killings. A decade later, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; he served time in prison and was paroled in 2004. Shortly after, police named him as a suspect in the killing of another man, but Johnson was never charged. In each of these cases, the victims were black men.

Johnson is the younger brother of Cleamon Johnson, nicknamed "Big Evil," who was convicted of killing two people in 1991 and is now on death row in California.

In recent years, family members and friends claimed that Timothy Johnson had changed. He became the father of two children and was leading, they said, a more responsible life.

The excerpts on these pages show how people respond with their best and worst when confronted by the catastrophe of an unchecked homicide cycle. They are helpless or defiant, vengeful or forgiving. They equivocate, or they show flashes of superb moral clarity. Most of all, they suffer.

The comments are excerpted from The Times' online Homicide Report. They were posted by members of the public and have not been verified or authenticated by The Times. For the full comments, go to http://www.latimes.com/johnson

-- Jill Leovy

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