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3 gang members arrested in South LA Christmas murder

August 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three people have been charged in the murder of a South Los Angeles woman who was shot and killed on Christmas night in front of her small daughter.

Detectives worked for eight months to find three gang members they say are responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Kashmier Shari James.

The community searched for months to find James's killer. City and county leaders even put up a $75,000 reward.

Tuesday, authorities announced that they had three men in custody: Darnell Deshon Houston, 34; Lamar McKnight, 24; and Ezekiel Simon, 16. Simon will be charged as an adult. Houston is the alleged shooter and McKnight is the alleged getaway driver.

The three suspects were arrested Tuesday and are now in custody, charged with murder. Police believe all three are gang members and they had mistaken James as someone else on the night of the shooting.

The victim was not a gang member. She was a victim of gang violence, and her family is worried that others will try to retaliate against the gang responsible.

It was a particularly shocking murder in one of L.A.'s toughest neighborhoods. It was Christmas Day 2010 and 25-year-old Kashmier James had gone to visit a friend in South L.A. on the 1700 block of West 85th Street. A dark SUV pulled up and someone inside fired nine shots.

James was standing outside of her car with her 3-year-old daughter nearby. James was struck by a bullet and died at the scene.

James's mother says she never doubted that her daughter's killers would be brought to justice.

At a news conference Wednesday, police announced the arrest of three suspects they say targeted James only because of the neighborhood where she was standing.

"Just the mere fact that they fit that age group, that age range, and shot at them. Unfortunately we see that a lot throughout the history of our city, where it's kind of the mistaken identity: 'I think that's a gang member, so therefore I'm going to shoot at them,'" said LAPD Detective Chris Barling.

Police say they received numerous tips that led to Tuesday's arrests, but did not specify what exactly led them to make the three suspects.

James's mother made a plea for other neighborhood gangs to resist the temptation to retaliate.

"Don't take it into your own hands because they told you where it came from. The people that did it are in custody. Let the justice be done. Don't take it into your own hands. We need the killings to stop," said Kim Evans, Kashmier's mother.

The three suspects are being held without bail. Only Houston is facing the possibility of the death penalty. They are due back in court September 13.

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