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An activist mother mourns another loss

Cynthia Mendenhall's son killed himself after a clash with deputies. His brother died in August.

December 11, 2006|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

A 22-year-old man who reportedly shot himself Saturday morning after an altercation with sheriff's deputies near Watts was the son of a local anti-gang activist, colleagues and friends said Sunday.

Cynthia Mendenhall is a prominent community activist who lost another son in a drive-by shooting in August.

Authorities said her son Darin Cole was driving erratically in unincorporated Willowbrook when they attempted to pull him over before 8 a.m. Saturday, according to a Sheriff's Department report.

Cole led deputies on a brief chase, which ended in the 2300 block of Santa Ana Boulevard, where deputies struggled with him as they tried to make an arrest.

Cole, a resident of the area, broke free and ran through a nearby apartment complex; once outside again, he struggled with his stepfather, according to authorities.

Cole then reached into a bag near his vehicle, pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head, the authorities said.

Mendenhall, known by many as Sista Soulja, witnessed the shooting, said local youth leader Lita Herron.

Los Angeles Police Department officers helped control the crowds gathered after the incident.

Mendenhall assured residents that Cole had not been shot by police, who also responded to the incident.

Mendenhall "was out there trying to call for peace, to make sure nothing escalated from misunderstanding," Herron said. "Initially, when you see so many law enforcement vehicles, people tend to get the wrong interpretation of what's going on."

Mendenhall's son Anthony Wayne Owens Jr., 25, was shot Aug. 30, not far from where his brother died.

Owens worked with his mother to combat youth violence, Herron said.

"It's so discouraging, a man doing the right thing ended up being killed," Herron said. "Those kind of things are very, very hurtful."

Sheriff's officials said the investigation into the circumstances of Cole's death is ongoing.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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