Members of the South Los Angeles community are outraged over the police shooting of 20-year-old Ryan Joseph, who was gunned down at approximately 8:35 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18 at 60th Place and Western Avenue in Los Angeles.
As of press time, a police report on the shooting incident has yet to be released, but Aareon Jefferson, media relations officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, stated that two officers from the Metro division were conducting a stop on Joseph on Sunday evening.
“The suspect ran away and a foot pursuit occurred,” stated Jefferson. “During the foot pursuit, the suspect produced a handgun at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred. The suspect was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at arrival. A gun was retrieved at the scene.”
According to Shanice Johnson, 20, a friend of Joseph who witnessed part of the incident, Joseph was running away from the police when one of them yelled, ‘stop running.’
“A burgundy van pulled up, which stopped and Joseph started running toward the van. The next thing I know, the police pulled out a gun and shot Ryan,” recalled Johnson.
The situation quickly became tense as police cordoned off the area with yellow tape surrounding Joseph’s prone body. According to witnesses, the police began pushing onlookers with batons and yelling for residents to “get back.”
The burgundy van has yet to be located and police report that the fatal shooting is under investigation.
As Joseph’s mother, Kallidra Bolton, and an older brother silently grieved, nearly 300 friends and acquaintances of Joseph’s gathered to pay their respects during a candlelight and prayer vigil on Monday evening, December 19.
Several members of the clergy supporting the family offered prayers, including Rev. James Perkins of True Friendship Baptist Church, Rev. Doug Nelson of McCoy Memorial Baptist Church, Rev, Winford Bell, pastor Mt. Olive Second Baptist Church, Pastor Marvis Davis of New Hope Baptist Church, and Pastor Winford Bell and Pastor Terry Wilson from the Silver Lining of Hope Crusade.
Rev. Perkins, who knew Joseph, recalled that he was a “hard working, caring young man” who loved everybody. “Ryan was a bright young man who graduated from Lou Dantzler Charter high school at sixteen, loved people and was a joy to be around. He grew up in the McCoy Memorial Baptist Church and he was loved by all.” Pausing, he urged those attending to stay in prayer. “We shall overcome–we have come a long way, but we are not there yet.”
As friends and family hugged and consoled each other over the senseless shooting, dozens of candles lit by attendees spelled out Joseph’s initials, “R.J.” and a vase of pink and white roses graced the center of the memorial. Many in attendance remembered Joseph as a jovial young man who was full of life.
But many of the young people milling around at the vigil expressed anger and frustration over the mounting number of black males that have been shot and killed by police. According to statistics, Joseph was the 22nd killing by LAPD this year.
Members of the Nation of Islam attempted to cool tempers as several angry young black men expressed their views.
“The police are killing us left and right,” declared one young man who wanted to remain anonymous. This makes no f**king sense. We’re out here dying and losing our lives. Every single day I see our young people dying. When is this going to stop?”
“They always have an excuse,” said Brejynae Prescott, 21, who was a friend of Joseph’s. “That’s always the excuse that they (black males) are aiming for their guns—someone reached for something. They said he (Joseph) was reaching for his gun in his waistband. How did they know that if he was running away?” Prescott questioned. “They could have just shot his leg. Ryan didn’t have to die if he was simply running away.”
“We need a new police force,” declared an older woman who wanted to remain anonymous. “The crooked cops need to be sent to jail or fined. I see too many kids getting killed–and I am sick and tired of it.”
“He was a young guy who lived with his mother and two brothers and he was a positive role model to the younger kids,” recalls Cedric Holmes, 42. “I think there’s a lot of racism going on and the president-elect (Trump) is not doing anything to stop it. I feel the cops will feel more support with Trump being president to commit these types of killings.”
Malik Brown, a cousin of Joseph’s, shook his head in disbelief knowing that his relative was gone. “I was going to come by to see him today. He was a funny dude, a real good kid. These shootings are ridiculous,” Brown reflected. ‘We need to let the government know that we are tired of this. We’ve got to stand together. I will really miss him.”
Zeke Hunt,18 and a member of the Black Lives Matter Movement, reflected, “With the LAPD leading the country in the number of homicides committed, I think it’s part of a systemic problem. You can’t just say it’s a couple of bad apples. When these cases are tried in the police commission, they always find the shooter in policy. So the policy is to shoot young black men.”
Pausing, he continued, “Too many black men are being shot down. I’m afraid for my life.”
Funeral services for Joseph are pending.