Venice boardwalk shooting victim Jascent-Jamal Lee Warren was a poet-musician who “grew up knowing what it is to give, to love and to care”
By Gary Walker
Herbert Warren wistfully surveyed the crowd of about 70 that had gathered on Ocean Front Walk near the Cadillac Hotel. A familiar blend of R&B and rap played in the background, competing with a nearby boardwalk guitarist and drummer for the soundtrack to a somber event.
The songs he recognized were recorded by his son, a 26-year-old homeless man who was shot dead in the early morning hours of Aug. 30 some 100 feet from that very spot on the boardwalk.
The Sept. 2 memorial for Jascent-Jamal Lee Warren follows the arrest of Cadillac Hotel owner Sris Sinnathamby, who pleaded not guilty to a murder charge last week in L.A. Superior Court and has since posted $1-millon bond.
Witnesses have told police that the younger Warren was attempting to mediate a dispute between Sinnathamby, 54, and a group of homeless people when Sinnathamby ordered an unidentified and still at-large gunman to open fire.
Jascent-Jamal Lee Warren was known on the boardwalk as “Shakespeare.”
“Jascent gave himself that name in middle school because he liked poetry. He liked writing songs and raps. I used to go into his bedroom sometimes and listen to him. He sounded pretty good to me,” his father recalled with a smile.
The elder Warren, who had just recently arrived in Venice from Chicago, said he was still confused about the events that led to his son’s death.
“The people that I’ve talked to are still asking themselves why. What was done that was so egregious that he would have to be shot to death? I’m wrestling with that same question, too,” Warren said. “I’m from Chicago, and it’s like something that we see from a South Side gangbanger. They kill for no particular reason, and that’s basically what this sounds like to me.”
Family, friends and sympathetic locals assembled around a memorial adorned with votive candles, flowers and photos of Shakespeare. Gail Rodgers, who lives a few blocks away, led the group in singing the hymn “Amazing Grace” and Warren said a short prayer for his son.
“It was very moving. Jascent’s dad’s prayer was very special,” Rodgers said.
Shakespeare came to Los Angeles nearly a decade ago after graduating from Ranch Bernardo High School in San Diego with designs on getting into the music industry, his father said.
Warren said he had not seen his son for two years but they often spoke on the telephone.
Jarrod Ben-Noah, a local who attended the memorial, said he’s considered sleeping in front of the Cadillac Hotel to protest Warren’s death.
“I didn’t know Shakespeare very well, but I met him once or twice briefly. I listened to some of his music today and I think I know him a little better now. It’s just
a shame to see a young, healthy young man with so much potential [killed],” Ben-Noah said.
Warren said Jascent-Jamal was always a peacemaker who eschewed violence and that his son’s religious beliefs were part of a legacy handed down by the younger Warren’s grandmother, who died from cancer several years ago. Warren said he took Jascent-Jamal and his other two sons to see their grandmother before she died and asked her if she had any final words of wisdom that he could pass onto his children.
“She told me, ‘I want you to take my babies and teach them about Jesus Christ and who he really is,’” Warren recalled. “That’s where his heart and his love for everyone come from. He grew up knowing what it is to give, to love and to care.”
Venice community activist Lydia Ponce met the younger Warren in July after he helped her move the personal belongings of other homeless people before a police sweep of the boardwalk during a lightning storm.
“He shared a little bit of his story as we sat in my truck waiting for the storm to blow through. His smile was enough to brighten up the world. During the times that I encountered him [on the boardwalk], I’ve never seen him angry and he never had a harsh word to say about anyone. He was loved and continues to be loved,” Ponce said. “Everyone loses in this tragedy.”
Warren said besides bringing all who were involved in his son’s murder to justice, he would like to see greater assistance for Venice’s homeless population.
“I’m not sure what that will be, but I hope it’s something that helps,” Warren said.