Candlelight vigil mourns 29-year-old shot to death last week in Venice

New Bethel Baptist Church Pastor Marvis L. Davis comforts the mother and sister of Lavell Harris as community members keep vigil around them
Photos by Maria Martin

Family and friends of murder victim Lavell Harris gathered on Friday for a memorial candlelight vigil at Broadway Street and Fifth Avenue in Venice, where police say the 29-year-old was gunned down near his home by as many as four assailants on the afternoon of May 20.

More than 30 friends and family members gathered around Harris’ aunt, sister, and mother Melanie Harris to light candles on the sidewalk beneath a large photo of Harris posted to a palm tree.

Police have not publicly identified murder suspects or discussed a motive for Harris’ murder. Several LAPD officers kept watch over the candlelight vigil from across the street.

Family members declined to speak with The Argonaut after the memorial, and a press conference and call to action planned for Tuesday afternoon was inexplicably cancelled on the day of the event. Venice-based gang intervention specialist Stan Muhammed of the Helper Foundation and longtime Oakwood neighborhood civil rights activist Naomi Nightingale told The Argonaut last week that they hoped to rally community members, public officials and law enforcement behind bringing Harris’ killers to justice.

“The tragic death of Lavell Harris by murderous hoodlums is more than our community can or should take. I am beside myself with sadness and anger,” Nightingale wrote in a social media post. “What can we do as a community to stop this madness? I don’t know the answer, but together we can begin to find ways.”

During the candlelight vigil, Pastor Marvis L. Davis of New Bethel Baptist Church on Brooks Avenue described Lavell Harris as “a servant to the church.”

“He was joyful. He was happy. He was respectful,” offered a woman in the crowd.

“He was a very good young man. Everybody loved him,” said family friend Michael McCown, 68. “I’m going to miss him.”

— Matthew Rodriguez