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Dispatch: Homicide Funeral

April 12, 2007 |  4:27 pm

Deontefreemanfuneral_2The little chapel at Solomon Mortuary in Watts, with its red carpet and fleur-de-lis wall coverings, was sweltering despite the roar of a creaky ceiling air conditioner. Mourners sat pressed together in the heat, their arms wrapped around each other. The funeral service for 19-year-old Deonte Freeman was about to start.

The 100 or so mourners, mostly black, wore dresses, suits and jeans; one or two had memorial T-shirts bearing Deonte's silkscreened picture. Freeman was tall, "Six foot three with a little-kid face," said his mother, Evelyn Coleman. "He acted like a big kid, but he tried to be smooth." He loved street basketball and parties, said friend Forrest Freeman, 18 (no relation). "He never gave anyone trouble," he said.

Deontefreemanportrait"He be slippin'," said a young man, using the street term for getting murdered. Freeman had been walking to a job-training center in South-Central Los Angeles mid-morning at the intersection of 41st and Woodlawn Avenue on Monday, March 26. Gang attackers shot him multiple times. Freeman wasn't a gang member, police said--just a likely target. Wrong place, wrong time, they said.

Mourners clutched programs and spoke sparingly. As the service began, many were still moving around, handing each other Kleenex, trying to find spots where they could see.

Screaming sobs drowned the second verse of "Amazing Grace." People shifted, and teared up. Mourners with tight mouths stood with squirming children in their arms. Among them were several young men Deonte's age. One wore a brown suit vest with slacks, another a T-shirt and black baseball cap. They stood motionless, staring forward with stricken gazes. In the small space, the sound of women sobbing echoed around them.

The chaplain bent over the Bible, his white shirt lit up by the tiny electric light on the podium. "The Lord is my shepherd...," he began.

Freemanfuneralprogram_2After the chaplain spoke, Freeman's friends and family members stepped up to give testimonials. A young woman in black lost her composure at the microphone, and buried her face in her hands. Her body shook. Other speakers followed. Once or twice, the chaplain, sitting to one side, intervened, trying to restore calm. "It's all right, it's all right," he intoned.

A young boy in a suit and tie told the crowd: "I hope they get the ones who did this to him." He put his hands over his face and strode out, crying, his jacket askew.

"I'm sick and tired of this," said a man, a cousin. Freeman was "not one of those out there making a mess," a woman said.  At the close, the minister rose. "I have known this pain before," he said. "The hurt never leaves. But we can bear the scar."

They filed by the open steel-gray casket for a last view of Freeman, a last kiss. They lingered in the parking lot, waiting for the hearse to leave. Some wore gang colors, some not. One of the former, a young man, sat slumped against the wall. He had a slack look on his face and he seemed at the brink of tears. He said he was disgusted with media portrayals of gangs and street violence. "People think this is glorious," he said. "It isn't."

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments (8)

something needs to be done. So many killing by teens. What is going on in this country is beyond belief. I dont understand how young people are into killing innocent people. Government must take a drastic step towards crime and gunlaws. My nephew was killed at the age of 18 last week. the police think it's drive by shooting. Parents should be blamed for crimes their children commits. "apple does not fall far from a tree" the way they raise their kids is the way those kids are going to behave.


look this is getting 2 crazy i was this boys best friend we went 2 the same school hes been 2 my house meny of times my mom would get up and make him food everytime he would spend a night he was a good boy a very good man me and him shared the same dreams of makeing alot of money and haveing beautiful wifes and lots of kids man but its crazy how another man can just kill another man with no remorse god put us on this world 2 love each other and 2 show each other that we care but we go against his word and sin wut kind of world are we leaveing in let me tell u wut kind of world this is its a sick crazy world of hate and no love think of all the ppl the faught 4 us 2 make it in life 4 us 2 get jobs 4 us 2 make it as ppl in this world Martin Luther King didnt fight so hard so we can kill each other he faught so we can see that we have 2 work together 2 get were we need 2 go in life so 2 who ever reads this just no he was a great person i love u D as my play bro but also as my family Rip my friend 4 ever D

First let me say R.I.P to all those who have fallen from the hands of another man. I was raised on the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles, so I know the pain that lives there. My brother was one of those victims and although I never truly recovered from that tragic night, God helps me carry that pain everyday. These kids that are pulling these triggers aren't being raised in the home, their being raised in the streets. Their being raised by the music industry that tells them it's ok to sell drugs. It's ok to gangbang, to disrespect their parents; to play God and take the life of someone they helped not create. There's no foundation for these kids to stand on, there's no strength in the home for these kids to grab a hold to and ask for help, so they turn to the streets, looking for acceptance, but only finding the beginning to their end. So for those who believe that change will some day come, I say keep believing, and when you find yourself not being able to believe much longer; then let go and let God.

My condolence to his family.

Unfortunately, I moved out of a nearby neighborhood over a year ago. My daughter was assaulted by a gang member after a traffic accident. Her car was stolen. The gang member came to my house and threatened to terrorize my family unless I paid hom for the damage to his tailpipes on his car. I refused. No neighbors intervened or called the police when he assaulted my daughter. That was untinkable, so I sold my inherited house and moved out of the county.

These people in these homicide stores cannot move as I could, so I feel their pain and only hope for the day that they can go to the store without fear of being shot or assaulted.

I left the northeast valley inthe seventys for the same reasons that this man was murdered. I could only see deat drugs and dispair around me and relized that if i wanted to have any chne of having a long healthy life that i would have to leave there. No one is accepting the cost of such a drain on our lives that these tragetys have taken. I raised three sons and a daughter far from the mean streets of LA and while I miss the scenes and sounds of the inner city I have no regrets. To see so many die without cause is a great same on our society. Former mayor bradley said once that in order to break the cycle of proverty and crime we must remove these individuals while they are yet still children and rasied them in a comune where they can received love and affection to allow for them to bond with things which are good and right. He was shouted down by the ACLU and others for attempting to adovacate a interment camp of sorts. No wonder we are in such a mess. History will repeat itself until strong measures are taken to snap the strenght of violence through cultivation of our youth.

I was mystified by the young mans remark that "People think this is glorious." I for one do not know anyone who thinks about gangs and gang shootings in those terms.
It is horrible and very sad. It is destroying many parts of our city and also destroying many lives. I feel the parents must unify and say we are not going to take this anymore. You must set curfews for your kids and make sure they are punished if they brake them. You can tell by their clothes if they are in a gang. So why act so surprised when there is a tragedy.
Stop blaming society. You are part of this society and need to teach your children how valuable life is. They have to know right from wrong and that is your job.
Take responsibility for your families and don't always point fingers when there is a drive-by shooting. It is you who is the first line of defense. It is you that must be involved in the lives of your children and your community.

I live in Louisville, KY and I was reading this post and it just saddens me to see all of the gang related murders regarding innocent black men. Regardless of whether they were involved in a gang or not, to be murdered by your own people disgusts me. I was reading this story and I just happened to click on the obituary and noticed that Deonte accepted and confessed Christ on March 25. He lost his life on March 26. He is alright!!! God has reclaimed him and he saved his soul when he decided to come to Christ just as he was. To God Be The Glory!


About the Reporters
The Homicide Report is compiled using information from the Los Angeles County coroner's office, local law enforcement agencies and the Los Angeles Times. It is written by Times staff writers.

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