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After-School Center Honors Slain Brothers

Community: Mayor Hahn and victims' mother take part in ceremony at facility, which was named for the three men.

January 17, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The opening ceremony Wednesday of a South-Central community center, named in honor of three slain brothers, was bittersweet.

As the mayor and others extolled the new Florence Brothers After School Program, where children can come for free tutoring and recreation, they offered condolences to Brenda Florence, the mother of the slain men.

"We felt it was important to help their mother in the healing process as well as redirect some of the negativity of what occurred," said Pastor Frederick Murph of Brookins Community AME Church, which operates the center.

"These were three young men on their way up in life who were tragically cut down in their youth, and we wanted to let their lives speak to the community."

The Florence brothers were killed within a week of each other last fall.

Christopher Florence, 21, was shot by a sniper Sept. 28 as he drove on 10th Avenue in Inglewood. Two days later, his brothers, Torry, 29, and Michael, 27, were shot half a mile from that site as they waited at a red light by someone who pulled up next to them.

Police said they believe that the older brothers had been driving around looking for clues to Christopher's slaying. Though police suspect the killers are gang members, they emphasize that the brothers were not.

The brothers and their mother, who lived in Inglewood, had been members of the church for several years, and Brenda Florence said it was an honor to have the after-school program named for her sons.

"My kids were raised with a very strong Christian foundation," Florence said.

The community center, she said, will help parents trying to keep their children safe.

The federally funded center at 1900 W. 48th St. began operating in December with about 25 children and has since grown to include 56. It offers free after-school tutoring, computer instruction, Spanish classes, arts and crafts, and recreation for children ages 8 to 17 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. It has five full-time employees and about 20 volunteers, Murph said.

"Here in the heart of South-Central Los Angeles, in the midst of all you hear about violence and killing, we've got a program that's trying to make a difference," he said.

As Mayor James K. Hahn thanked Brenda Florence for allowing the renaming in her sons' honor, she held back tears as the audience gave her a standing ovation.

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