via Wikimedia Commons
Example of a red pair of sports sneakers, not the one mentioned in the story below. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A man who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and testified against two other defendants was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in state prison in connection with the gang-related killing of a 19-year-old mentally disabled man who prosecutors said was gunned down near a South Los Angeles car wash over the red shoes he was wearing.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo called the killing of Tavin Price a “cold, callous and cowardly crime,” and said she believes 31- year-old Dwight Kevin Smith testified truthfully in the trial of co-defendants Kanasho Johns, 29, and Kevin Deon Johnson, 26.

“You need to think long and hard about the decisions you have made in your life,” the judge told Smith, noting that he will eventually be freed from prison.

The victim’s mother, Jennifer Rivers, said that it has “really been hard on me and my family,” but added that she felt justice had been done.

“Maybe I could be at some kind of peace, hopefully,” she told the judge.

Johns and Johnson — who were convicted of first-degree murder along with gang and gun allegations — were sentenced Nov. 30 to 50 years to life in state prison.

Johns — who jurors determined had personally used a handgun to kill the victim — was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon. The judge tacked on a three-year term for that offense.

Deputy District Attorney Bobby Zoumberakis told jurors during the trial of Johns and Johnson that Price “was not allowed to wear red shoes in that gang neighborhood.”

“Tavin Price was murdered because of gang pride, because the gang pride was more important than Tavin Price’s life,” the prosecutor said during his opening statement.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed Smith confronted Price in a smoke shop near the car wash in the 3300 block of West Florence Avenue, while Johnson stood nearby. That conversation and the shooting itself were caught on surveillance video, though there was no audio recording.

Smith identified himself as a gang member and said to Price, “Why are you wearing all that red? Where are you from?” according to Johnson’s attorney, Curt Leftwich, during his opening statement.

“I don’t bang,” Price replied, to which Smith retorted, “Come out of those shoes,” according to Leftwich.

Both sides also told jurors that Hilary Wade, who is the mother of Price’s nephew and was in the store with him, told Smith that the young man wasn’t a “gangbanger” and explained that he was “slow.”

A short while later, Price was standing by his mother’s car when a gunman fired four rounds at “this 19-year-old boy who did nothing wrong and ended him” with “no hesitation,” the deputy district attorney told jurors.

The prosecutor said an eyewitness who knew Johns identified him as the shooter, and Johns fled to Texas in an effort to avoid prosecution.

For his part, Johnson left the car wash, picked up Johns and drove him to the scene of the shooting, according to Zoumberakis.

—City News Service

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