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A life and death, raw

December 23, 2007|Jill Leovy

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Nov. 25, a 37-year-old black man named Timothy Johnson was shot multiple times on East 92nd Street in Watts as he returned home from a party. By the time police arrived, Johnson was dead, and the people who had been on the street with him had disappeared. A pit bull puppy chained in the yard was curled up on his body for warmth.

Johnson's killing, like most of the others described in the Los Angeles Times' online Homicide Report, drew scant attention from media accustomed to a metronome beat of black-on-black killings. But such killings in South Los Angeles often contain within them interlocking strands of other murders -- other cases of thwarted justice.

When the bare details of Johnson's murder were posted on the blog, more than 100 people commented. The excerpts below -- cut for space, but otherwise unedited -- encapsulate the effect of one such murder cluster on a small community.

Johnson, whose street nickname was "Sinister," had long been a member of a Green Meadows Blood gang associated with 89th Street in Watts, according to police. He had been connected by police to four homicides. In 1989, he was acquitted of two killings. A decade later, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; he served time in prison and was paroled in 2004. Shortly after, police named him as a suspect in the killing of another man, but Johnson was never charged. In each of these cases, the victims were black men.

Johnson is the younger brother of Cleamon Johnson, nicknamed "Big Evil," who was convicted of killing two people in 1991 and is now on death row in California.

In recent years, family members and friends claimed that Timothy Johnson had changed. He became the father of two children and was leading, they said, a more responsible life.

The excerpts on these pages show how people respond with their best and worst when confronted by the catastrophe of an unchecked homicide cycle. They are helpless or defiant, vengeful or forgiving. They equivocate, or they show flashes of superb moral clarity. Most of all, they suffer.

The comments are excerpted from The Times' online Homicide Report. They were posted by members of the public and have not been verified or authenticated by The Times. For the full comments, go to http://latimes.com/johnson

-- Jill Leovy

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My sincere thoughts and prayers go out to the Johnson family. I have known the family for over twenty years, through good times and bad. Being the detective supervisor overseeing the investigation, I can honestly tell you that we would appreciate any information regarding the tragic death of Timothy.

... Citizens can telephone the detectives at (213) 485-4341 or anonymously at 877 LAW-FULL

Posted by: Sal LaBarbera / November 26, 2007 at 06:37 PM

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... The life of an African American Man in LA has proven to be a fight till the death. I am struggling now as I sit here looking at your picture. All the years we spent growing up together, supporting each other and just loving one another. I Love you!! You were my cousin by birth but my brother at heart.

Love Kim

Posted by: Khaleelah Muhammad / November 28, 2007 at 04:50 PM

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The Sunset on your Grandmother Luella Johnson April 13, 1993

The Sunset on your Aunt Loreen Dowd July 20, 2003

Now The Sunset on Timothy Johnson November 25, 2007

When you arrive in Heaven your family will be waiting to hug and keep you warm your life is not over it is just beginning.

Love You : Uncle Gene

Posted by: Gene Wilkins / November 28, 2007 at 09:45 PM

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To all the people speaking glowing words about this man ... im sure some of you know and for those that dont, this man was a killer and it was known by LAPD that he has blood on his hands. Trust me he got what he deserved and what i prayed for. He now has to meet GOD face to face and face the people that HE has killed

Posted by: Satisfyied Person / November 29, 2007 at 11:03 AM

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Street justice has been served". I never personally met or seen timothy johnson, a.k.a. "sinister" but my complete understanding of this guy is that he had blood on his hands. He lived by the gun and he died by the gun. It has been confirmed by the lead detective that "sinister" killed a dear friend of mine about 3 yrs. ago, and the police identified "sinister" as the killer. they never charged him for the murder because all of the witnesses were reluctant to come forward ... prayers to "sinister's" wife and kids, but to "sinister", you lived as a coward and you died as a coward. you killed innocent people in broad day light, is it not ironic that you we're gunned down by the shadows of darkness? only god can judge us so i wont ....

Posted by: STREET JUSTICE / November 29, 2007 at 11:46 AM

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STREET JUSTICE It's very disrespectful to talk about someone that you have no knowlege of. You address the matter of your "homeboy" getting killed and that's all good but you wouldn't want someone to talk down on your "homeboy", so why turn around and bash Tim ....

Posted by: Shadarrah Madden / November 29, 2007 at 05:12 PM

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