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Teenager Is Charged in Slaying of Coach

March 19, 2003|Akilah Johnson | Times Staff Writer

An 18-year-old Los Angeles man was charged with murder Tuesday in the fatal shooting of Lee Denmon III, a popular basketball coach at an Inglewood high school.

Police allege that Raymond Hodge shot and killed Denmon on Friday morning while the coach was standing in front of his parents' driveway in Inglewood. Authorities say Hodge mistook the 23-year-old Morningside High School coach for a rival gang member.

Hodge, whom police describe as a gang member, was arrested Friday night after he allegedly shot at two other people in separate incidents that day. In addition to the murder charge, Hodge faces two attempted-murder charges and three counts of assault with a firearm.

He was being held without bail. If convicted, Hodge faces either life without parole or the death penalty.

The murder charge carries a "special circumstance" because authorities say it occurred as part of an effort to benefit the gang to which Hodge belongs.

Denmon, who gradated from Morningside in 1997, won numerous trophies as a shooting guard in high school and at Southwest Los Angeles College. Before becoming a coach, he played at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He began coaching freshman basketball at Morningside last fall.

"If you knew Lee, you liked him," said Ronnie Arrow, head coach of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi basketball program that Denmon helped build from scratch.

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