Relatives Believe Grandfather Shot, Killed at Family Reunion Was Targeted by White Man with a Rifle
The family of a Long Beach man killed during a family reunion at a city park over the weekend believes the crime was racially motivated and is demanding action.
Frederick Taft, 57, was gunned down in a restroom at the Pan American Park on Saturday afternoon, The Los Angeles Times reported. A friend of the family recalled seeing a white man carrying a rifle run out of the bathroom shortly after the shooting. She said the man was sporting calf-high socks, khaki shorts and a fishing hat.
A racial slur was also found carved in a nearby park bench, local station ABC 7 reported.
“It’s just a random act of violence,” said Cheryl Malonson, the victim’s sister. “You go to the bathroom during midday and someone shoots you for no reason?”
Relatives described Taft, who was a truck driver, as a devoted family man and doting grandfather. His nephew, David Malonson, said Taft was “the person who everyone would call when they needed something getting done.”
“He was a jack-of-all-trades uncle,” Malonson added.
Hours after the shooting, Taft’s daughter Corie, 29, said a player from a nearby softball game told her that he and his group were harassed by a group of white men on bikes earlier in the day who were using racial slurs, the Los Angeles Times reported. Not long afterward, the young woman said a man driving a white Prius pulled up, laughed and yelled something about a “187 in the park.”
Family members said they believe the point-blank shooting was pre-planned and that Taft was targeted because of his race. A spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department said police are investigating but that detectives haven’t “uncovered any evidence of a hate crime.” The department also declined to say what kind of weapon was used in the attack.
“It wasn’t a robbery. They didn’t take his wallet,” Mareatha Moore, the mother of Taft’s daughter, said. “So what else was it?”
Nearly 100 people gathered at the park Monday evening for a vigil and to demand justice for Taft. Grieving family and friends lit candles and released balloons in the slain man’s honor.