The caller was Emond Taylor, Tyronn's childhood friend. Earlier that night, he had been with Tyronn when a white Altima pulled up and a young man got out and shot Tyronn in the chest.
Later, Bickham was at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center, where, after a long wait, doctors told her that her son had died. She became hysterical, friends recalled. She ran through corridors, then passed out.
When she came to, she was taken to a small room. Tyronn's body lay on a gurney. Bickham saw his sheet-covered form, and her body stiffened.
She braced her hands against the door frame to keep from being ushered in.
Bickham has prominent cheekbones, a beauty mark under one eye, and whimsically dyed red hair. She is girlish, and sits cross-legged on her couch as she recalls these events, more than a year after her son's death.
When she recounts the phone call, she holds out her arms, as if to push something away. "I didn't want to hear it," she says.
Later, talking of seeing Tyronn's body, she makes the same gesture. "I didn't want to see," she says.
'They Know Who Did It'
Jenell Nelson's son died in her arms. She talks about it mechanically, staring into space. She is an airport shuttle driver, thin, with dark circles around her eyes.
Jamaal, 18, had light brown eyes. He was her youngest and most spoiled. He was big, hated school, liked everyone -- immature and bighearted by turns, his mother's chief irritation, her chief joy.
The morning he died, Feb. 16, Nelson heard gunshots in front of her house.
She was outside in an instant, screaming and running, hurling herself on his body where he lay, half under a car.
"I was in his ear, screaming his name, down on my knees," she recalled. "I was saying, 'Please don't die on me, please don't die!' "
She raised his T-shirt, and saw bullet holes in his back. "I'm screaming," she said. "And I'm picking his head up. And I'm screaming, 'Please don't die, please don't die, please don't leave me!' "
With frantic fingers, Nelson searched Jamaal's braids, looking for head wounds.
Then she heard him take his last, rasping breaths.
Police had to pull her away.
The day was warm. Jamaal's body lay in the street for hours, half-covered by a sheet while investigators completed their work. Nelson noticed that her clothes were soaked with his blood.
At last, officials showed Nelson a photo of Jamaal to identify, a required procedure. They handed her a card with a claim number on the back.
Then they stripped Jamaal's body in the street and took him away.
Jamaal's murder remains unsolved. There were witnesses. The detective needs just one to talk. They are easy to find, hard to persuade.
At the wake, one of Jamaal's friends whispered to Nelson that several mourners knew who did it. It was no secret, they said. The killers were guys from the neighborhood. They had bragged about it afterward, laughed about it. Some of Jamaal's friends had heard them, and said nothing.
They knew who had done it, Jenell Nelson recalled, and there they were, in her living room, "helping themselves to the food."
An Unshakeable Image
Peter Drake Jr.'s killers shot him from behind, then stood over him and shot 11 more times. They put the gun in his mouth and blew out his teeth.
But three years later, the part his mother, Marjorie Craddock, can't get over is how they shot him through the palm of his hand.
She can't shake that image: Pete begging them to stop. Pete raising his hand to shield his face as he died.
Craddock is a South L.A. insurance agent with short, shiny black hair and a brisk Louisiana lilt. Her son had a saunter and a "sneaky smile," she said, which played around the corners of his mouth.
As a child, he would cuddle with her in bed on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons. He grew up tall, with very dark skin, a black goatee. He couldn't hold a job, and they argued frequently. But there was tenderness.
When she couldn't reach the higher cupboards in her kitchen, Pete would step up with a breezy, "Move, Shorty!" and lift her like a doll out of the way.
Sometimes now, Craddock stands at the kitchen sink and senses someone behind her.
She whirls and finds herself staring down an empty hall.
People know that black men are being murdered, Craddock said, but they assume they are all criminals. "They see," she said, "and they don't see."
The young black men who killed Peter Drake were caught and convicted of the mistaken-identity murder. When Sheriff's Det. Elizabeth Smith first interrogated them, they asked her why she was so zealous.
"People get killed all the time," she remembered one asking. "Why are you solving this one?"
They thought Pete was "just another gang member," Smith said.
They thought no one would care.
A Never-Ending Emptiness and Pain
Six years after the murder of her 16-year-old son, Roshod, Karen Hamilton sits at her dining room table, tense as a wire, rubbing her hands together. She has left dinner simmering. Her eyes are downcast. A tattoo on her arm reads, "My Son Roshod.''