Frederick Taft celebrated with 40 to 50 of his relatives during a family reunion at Pan American Park in Long Beach, Calif., not knowing that it would be the last time. Taft was shot and killed inside a restroom that afternoon. His relatives said a white man murdered him because he was Black.
The 57-year-old was shot in the upper torso just before 4:30 p.m., the Long Beach Police Department stated in a
news release. Taft died at the scene. The suspect fled on foot after the shooting.
A friend of Taft’s who was at the reunion, Sakeena Christmon, said she saw a man carrying a rifle run out of the bathroom after the shooting, according to the
Los Angeles Times. Christmon said he was a white man wearing a fishing hat, khaki shorts and calf-high socks.
Because the man shot Taft while he was alone in the restroom, Christmon said, “He came here on a mission to kill,” and the murder was pre-planned and racially motivated.
Corie Taft, the victim’s only child, told the
Long Beach Press Telegram that she wasn’t yet at the park when her father was killed. When she arrived after his death, a man, a softball coach, offered his condolences, she said. He also said his team had recently been harassed by a man shouting racial slurs in the same park.
Taft told the newspaper that while she and the coach were talking, “a white Prius stopped and someone rolled down the window and shouted, ‘Ha! ha! 187!’ before driving away.”
The coach identified the man as the same person who shouted racial slurs at his players, she said.
The suspect in Taft’s killing has not yet been apprehended. Police spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said that detectives are searching for a man in his 50s and investigators are analyzing evidence to determine a motive.
They “haven’t uncovered any evidence of a hate crime thus far,” she said, according to the Press Telegram.
Writer and social justice activist Shaun King, who has 1 million Twitter followers, posted the following on Wednesday:
Oh my God. A white man walked right up on #FrederickTaft, a 57 year old Black grandfather, and shot and killed him at the local park for a family gathering. Just hours before that, white men in the Long Beach Park wrote KKK on the sidewalk. We must find this killer right away. pic.twitter.com/NAwBZi7flO
Shaun King (@ShaunKing) July 25, 2018
The post includes a video clip of a KABC-TV news broadcast detailing Taft’s murder.
It was nothing but a racist hate crime,” a woman says in the video. And this needs to stop.”
Witnesses said that on Saturday morning they saw three white men inscribe a racial slur against Black people on a bench in the same park where Taft was killed. It’s since been painted over.
We all believe it was a hate crime,” Taft’s daughter, Corie, told the Press Telegram. She mentioned someone showed her the photo of the park bench. I honestly believe that it wasn’t meant for my dad, it could’ve been anybody.”