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Dispatch: 'Anything anybody needed Dominique was there to do it for them'

September 29, 2009 |  2:02 pm

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Dominique Johnson, a 28-year-old black man, was shot in a drive-by assault just before midnight July 4 and died in the hospital shortly after.

On Saturday, his friends and family gathered in Cerritos Park to celebrate what would have been his 29th birthday. There was food and laughter, Johnson's two young children swung from the playground equipment and family members gathered at the picnic tables to talk and play dominoes.

But there was a heaviness to the celebration.

This was the park where Johnson spent his last day celebrating July 4th with his family. Shonda Louden, Johnson's girlfriend, said they had spent all day July 4 in the park celebrating then drove home to set off fireworks in front of his grandmother's house.

Johnson lived with Louden in the 1300 block of North Tamarind Avenue in Compton, about a block away from his grandmother's house. When his family finished setting off fireworks, Johnson and Louden got into his car and drove the short distance back to their home. Louden said she went inside to take a shower as Johnson stayed in his car to talk to a neighbor.

"I got into the shower and I heard gunshots," Louden said. "They were pounding on my door and calling my name…. Dominique was lying in the hall and not breathing."

Sonya Cox, Johnson's mother, said paramedics took him to St. Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Det. Jo Espino of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the motive for the shooting is still under investigation. He said the shooter could be gang-affiliated, but added that Johnson was not a gang member.

On Sunday, Johnson's birthday, his family gathered at 6:30 p.m. for a candlelight vigil. Cox led the procession, which started at Johnson's grandmother's house and concluded at the place he was shot. Several dozen family members and friends attended, many wearing white memorial T-shirts with Johnson's photo on them.

They lit votive candles and walked down the street singing happy birthday. The song was punctuated with occasional bursts of tears and sobbing. The procession stopped at Johnson's car, which Espino said he was sitting in when he was shot.

Louden said it had been "shot up" in the incident, but his friends had gotten it repaired. His mother leaned on the car and said a short prayer as the procession ended and everyone gathered around her in a half circle.

"Anything anybody needed Dominique was there to do it for them, Lord," Cox said. "I'm just asking Lord, to let there be peace for whoever did it. Just let their heart open up and turn themselves in, Lord."

After the prayer, a line formed up to the front porch of the house. One by one, friends and family set down their candles and signed a poster with birthday messages to Johnson.

“Happy B-day bro-in-law. You da best: miss you, love you,” one message read. Above the messages was a poster with photos of Johnson and a birthday card taped to the middle. Balloons reading “Happy Birthday” were tied to the porch.

As the vigil wound down, someone started Johnson’s car and began blasting music from his old stereo. People began dancing and singing along, and a few neighbors from down the street came over to mingle with his family.

Rashaad Green, Johnson's best friend, remembered him as a supportive friend, loving father and great auto mechanic.

"We grew up together," he said. " I made some mistakes with my life.… He was always telling me I could change and that we could choose between everything in life."

Green said that after high school Johnson went to trade school to learn how to be a mechanic. He was known for working on cars, Louden said, and his friends and family will remember him by the Ford Taurus that will stay parked in front of his house.

-- Anthony Pesce in Compton and Cerritos Park

Photo: Sonya Cox, Dominique Johnson's mother, signing a poster Sunday at the vigil. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times.
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