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Losses cripple a family

When Jasmine Sanders, 8, was shot to death outside her home, it was a terrible shock -- one among far too many for her relatives.

August 02, 2008|Ruben Vives | Times Staff Writer

If any family knows the pain of street violence, it's Jasmine Sanders' family.

Barely a week after the 8-year-old was shot and killed on the steps of her South Los Angeles apartment complex, relatives are still reeling from accusations that Jasmine's own 13-year-old cousin fired the fatal shot.

But family members said that even as they gather at her funeral today, they will be grieving more than just Jasmine's death. Within a two-week period last month, two of Jasmine's cousins also died from gunfire.

"The family is devastated," said Sheila King, Jasmine's paternal grandmother. "It's horrible. It's not stopping. Why is this happening to us?" Jasmine's uncle Clifford Bonam, 36, summed it up this way: "Our whole family is dying.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Shooting death: An article in the Aug. 2 California section about the family of 8-year-old Jasmine Sanders, who was shot and killed last month on the steps of an apartment complex where she lived, said that Sanders' uncle was interviewed as he was sitting in Jasmine's grandmother's home. He was at her great-grandmother's home. Also, in some editions the article said that the great-grandmother's home was near Exposition Park. It is near Jefferson Park.

"These are all family members we knew, not someone we hadn't seen in a while."

Jasmine was shot July 23 about 8:45 p.m. as she walked up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her mother and two brothers.

Just 10 days earlier, her cousin Kimberly Bonds, 19, was shot and killed outside an apartment complex in Athens.

Police said the shooters were aiming at a group of rivals and killed the girl accidentally.

Then, the day following Jasmine's death, another cousin, Dominique Anderson, 38, was shot in the back of the head at the corner of 85th and Figueroa streets, just a few blocks from where Jasmine had been shot.

Police said Anderson had been involved in a fight.

Authorities said that the 13-year-old suspect in Jasmine's death and another teen had walked out of a nearby alley and that the suspect produced a handgun and fired at a group of boys nearby.

Relatives said the suspect had gotten into a fight with the boys earlier in the day and intended to hit one of them. Instead, the 13-year-old "lost control" of the weapon and shot his cousin by mistake, authorities said.

Initially, family members said they did not know the shooter's identity and called on the public for help.

Jasmine's father, James Sanders, 27, said his brother asked around and heard that the assailant's nickname was the same as that of a young relative of Jasmine's mother.

Sanders, who is separated from Shadonna Kinney, 28, said he confronted her on the phone. He said Kinney questioned her 12-year-old son, who confirmed that their young relative went by the same nickname. Sanders alerted authorities.

Police said the arrest was the result of tips from neighbors and the community.

The suspect, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, was charged as a juvenile with murder and attempted murder, according to Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Kinney had moved the family into the complex at 76th and San Pedro streets two weeks before Jasmine's death, Sanders said.

He said he could not understand why she chose that apartment building.

"It's common sense," Sanders said. "There's bullet holes on the gate."

Police said the building was a well-known hangout for gang members and was the site of other shootings, including some the previous week.

"Everyone's in shock," Sanders said of the bloodshed. "They can't believe it."

Kinney, in an interview a week after Jasmine's death, called her daughter her "shining star."

Teachers described the girl as a go-getter; she read with a dictionary at her side and often arrived at 75th Street Elementary School an hour early, eager to learn, her mother said.

Jasmine was learning Spanish from Latino friends and liked carne asada tacos with ketchup, not hot sauce. She enjoyed dancing to Ciara's pop hit "1, 2 Step," Kinney said.

"She laid her clothes out ready [for school] the night before. . . . And in the morning she'd kiss me and she'd be out of here," Kinney said, crying.

As Kinney spoke, her sister lay on the floor pillows that had cushioned Jasmine's head as she died. She also wept.

Bonam, Jasmine's uncle, said his niece wanted Barack Obama to win the presidency so she could play with his girls at the White House.

Bonam spoke the day after the suspect's arraignment, sitting in the living room of Jasmine's grandmother's home near Jefferson Park.

Photographs of Jasmine had been removed from a wall of family portraits hanging behind him so they could be displayed at the funeral.

"She was ambitious; she had dreams and goals," Bonam said. Jasmine's favorite song was hip hop artist Nas' "I Can," he added.

Sanders said that since Jasmine's death, he has had trouble sleeping, cries at times and doesn't like to leave the house.

"It's all a dream," he said. "But when I see her in that casket, the dream is over."

Services for Jasmine start at 11 a.m. at Praises of Zion Baptist Church, 8222 S. San Pedro St.

Police are seeking help identifying a 16-year-old black youth they believe was present at the shooting. Anyone with information can call Dets. Mike Oppelt or Al Aldaz at (213) 485-2531.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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Times staff writers Ari Bloomekatz, Richard Winton and Gale Holland contributed to this report.

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