Authorities Tuesday stepped up their search for the killer of a man who was gunned down in a restroom at a Long Beach park and said they hope that rewards will lead to a break in the case, which the victim’s family believes may have been a hate crime.
Fred Taft, 57, of Long Beach was shot in the head and upper body about 4:25 p.m. July 21 at Pan American Park in the 5100 block of Centralia Street. He died at the scene.
Taft had been attending a family reunion in the park, with between 40 and 50 people in attendance.
The suspected gunman — described as a white man in his 50s, 6 feet tall with a medium build — fled on foot. He was wearing a dark shirt, light shorts and a hat, police said.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors offered a $10,000 reward for help in solving the crime. Supervisor Janice Hahn, who recommended the reward, said detectives believe some people who may have information have yet to come forward.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, authorities said another $10,000 reward is pending from the city of Long Beach.
“We are devastated,” said Taft’s daughter, Corie Taft. “My dad was everything for all of us. I loved my father more than life itself, and I miss him dearly every day. So do the rest of our family. He had two grandchildren, who ask for ‘paw-paw’ every day. He was a great man who loved his family, his friends and God. We are all devastated and heartbroken, and we need answers.”
Police said a motive for the crime was unknown, but it appeared to have been an isolated incident.
Relatives of Taft, who was black, believe the killing was a hate crime.
Taft’s daughter previously told the Los Angeles Times that a person who had been playing softball nearby said his group had been harassed in the park hours before the shooting by a group of white men on bikes who were using racial slurs.
A friend of Taft’s who was at the party told the newspaper that she saw a man carrying a rifle run out of the bathroom toward Centralia Avenue after the shooting.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said investigators are aware of concerns on the part of Taft’s family and others that the killing was a hate crime. That possibility has not been ruled out, he said.
Anyone with information was urged to contact Long Beach police homicide Detectives Michael Hubbard and Adrian Garcia at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS or at lacrimestoppers.org.