A Black man who took at bathroom break while at a family reunion was shot and killed and his family believes he targeted and the victim of a racist attack.
Frederick Taft, was killed in Pan American Park over the weekend after witnesses said a white man with a rifle emerged from the bathroom and is believed to be the killer of the 57-year-old truck driver from Long Beach, Calif.
Taft was with about 40 or 50 family members, according to his nephew David Malonson, when he stepped away to use the restroom. The 35-year-old remembered his uncle as a dedicated family man who could do it all and everyone could count on.
“He was the person who everyone would call when they needed something getting done,” Malonson said. “He was a jack-of-all-trades uncle.”
Sakeena Christmon, a friend of Taft identified the alleged killer at the party and said he was carrying a rifle, wore khaki shorts, calf-high socks and a fishing hat, she said. The suspect ran out of the bathroom after the shooting, she said.
“He came here on a mission to kill,” Christmon said of the shooter.
Arantxa Chavarria, a Long Beach police spokeswoman, has not confirmed if the killing was racially motivated and said detectives had not “uncovered any evidence of a hate crime.”
The suspect has been described as a white man in his 50s.
“Evidence is still being collected and analyzed,” she wrote in an email.
But the grieving family disagrees with police.
“It wasn’t a robbery. They didn’t take his wallet. So what else was it?” asked Mareatha Moore, the mother of Taft’s daughter Corie.
Family members and friends gathered at the park on Monday to remember Taft and demand justice for the senseless killing. They lit candles and write solemn goodbye messages.
After the shooting another family reported to Taft’s relatives that they were harassed earlier in the park by a group of white men on bicycles who hurled racial slurs at them.
Police are still investigating.