The mood was sullen yet tense on Monday night at the entrance to a Westmont apartment building where 16-year-old Anthony Weber fell after he was shot and killed by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies.
Mourners set down candles and gathered to pay their respects at the spot where Weber died. Authorities killed the teenager on Sunday night after he was seen brandishing a weapon in the area and after a foot chase.
Although officials did not recover a weapon at the scene, on Monday sheriff’s officials said they “believe” that the weapon Weber was allegedly carrying was somehow stolen or picked up in a melee against deputies that occurred after the shooting.
Captain Chris Bergner, a spokesman for L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, said at a press conference Monday afternoon: “Deputies saw a gun when the shooting occurred, and then with the 30 to 40 people that came out of the apartment complex, they were trying to maintain security of that, and they believe that at some point somebody may have reached in and taken the gun.”
Members of the community have disputed the Sheriff department’s claim that Weber was armed. They say he was seen shirtless at the time of the shooting; Bergner said paramedics cut off the teenager’s shirt as they were trying to save his life. The deputies’ shooting of Weber led to a prolonged and emotional confrontation outside the apartment building where he was shot.
Weber’s mother, Demetra Johnson, told reporters at the building on Monday afternoon: “My son was a good son, he was a great brother, he had the biggest heart, he was a wonderful father. He had a nine-month-old daughter Violet that lights up every time he walked in the room.”
Several locals say the area is territory of the Hoover gang.
L.A. sheriff’s officials on Monday called the apartment building a known “gang hang out.”
Most residents and protesters declined to speak to the press. At night the gated entryway became a kind of private refuge for Weber’s inner circle of friends and family.
Known activist Najee Ali led a brief protest vigil in Westmont on Monday, but it was small and short lived. By nightfall, as half a dozen protesters held up a banner that denounced police killings, others stayed behind a metal gate at the entrance to the building or stood up the street in a separate group. Marijuana smoke wafted down the dimly lit residential block.
Earlier in the day, a stream of news reporters had visited the scene and interviewed witnesses whose accounts of the shooting differed widely from the version of the sheriff’s department.
Through a spokeswoman, Weber’s family declined to comment to LA Taco. Privately, residents say that violence is becoming widespread to an alarming degree and that local gangs are in conflict.
The Sheriff’s Department has said the Weber was a gang member, which one local resident confirmed to the LA Times. Several locals say the area is territory of the Hoover gang. They say the sheriff’s shooting of Weber comes at a delicate time, as the Hoover gang is in a dispute with a rival — the Neighborhood Crips.
Fifteen people were killed in Westmont in the past 12 months, according to the LA Times’s Homicide Homicide Report. The neighborhood forms a part of an area of South LA dubbed “Death Alley” by law enforcement.
Even so, the circumstances of Weber’s killing have shocked and angered many in the neighborhood.
“They want to call him a gangster,” said Clarence M. Allen, a member of the Southern California Cease-Fire Committee. “He was an American citizen, a young man, and now he’s dead.”
Elected officials in Los Angeles have thus far remained quiet on the 16-year-old’s death, signaling a uniform degree of disengagement from local representatives and county supervisors.
The Sheriff’s Department kept a low profile in the the area Monday night, with no uniformed officers present, even after a dispute between two mourners in the entryway escalated into a noisy confrontation spilling into the street.