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‘It Could Have Been Me,’ Neighbors Say at Apartment Complex Where LASD Shot Unarmed Ryan Twyman

Willowbrook, Los Angeles County, CA – June 14: Memorial and Fundraiser for Ryan Twyman at San Pedro and 132nd Street in Willowbrook, Los Angeles County on June 14, 2019. (Brian Feinzimer)

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]hey call themselves “one big ass family” at the apartment complex where an unarmed man named Ryan Twyman was shot multiple times by Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies. The residents of the South Bay Villa units lost one of their own, they say, and now they are holding vigil and demanding answers.

“We don’t want to call it a protest,” a neighbor, Ceddy Mack, said on Friday. “We’re calling it a rally for Ryan. [... ] We just want our rights to be respected the same way we respect their job.”

Mack sported T-shirts that read “It Could Have Been Me,” a slogan that has become a hashtag and rallying cry for Ryan Twyman’s survivors. Several of those gathering donned one of the shirts. For them, Twyman is now another unarmed black man killed in Los Angeles unjustly by people meant to protect and serve. They bemoan the lack of media coverage on their friend's death.

“The way they opened up the door and shot at him, they could have done it to anybody. That’s why I feel like it could have been me. Everybody feels that way,” Mack told L.A. Taco.

Neighbors gathered to honor Ryan with tacos and BBQ. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Neighbors gathered to honor Ryan with tacos and BBQ/Photo by Brian Feinzimer.

On Friday afternoon, neighbors and family gathered for tacos and BBQ to raise funds for Twyman’s three children. He was killed just a few days after turning 24. His youngest child is 1 year old. “They literally took my heart from me,” Twyman’s girlfriend Davielle Johnson wrote on Instagram after the shooting.


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They literally took my heart from me 💔

A post shared by JusticeForRyanTwyman (@westsidedavi) on

Twyman was shot while sitting in his car in the parking lot of the private complex near 132nd and San Pedro streets in unincorporated Willowbrook. The shooting happened before nightfall, around 7:30 pm, on June 6. The sheriff’s department has admitted no weapon was found, according to KTLA, but the department has said little else.

June 6 was a violent night for law enforcement in Los Angeles County. LASD shot and killed two other people in a roughly 24-hour period during which Twyman was shot. In addition, the LAPD shot two people also on the same night, for a total of four deaths out of five incidents.

The killings join a string of officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles County, where a badge-wearing officer is almost never prosecuted for killing an unarmed civilian.

The Willowbrook man’s death has caught the attention of powerful black activist groups the NAACP and Black Lives Matter LA, as well as celebrities like Compton rapper The Game, who says he’s familiar with the South Bay Villa and the injustices that people of color in areas like Willowbrook and Compton face on a daily basis.

The Game wrote: "There has always been tension between the Sheriff’s & the youth in Compton & the hatred authority has for black children & those of Hispanic background is very visible & most including myself do or did whatever necessary to avoid confrontation with you heartless mothafuckas."

The Game also called out L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. "I can remember us having a conversation about bettering Los Angeles awhile back on both sides of the ball," he told @mayorofla. "Well now I’m calling on you. We need answers on how Los Angeles Sheriff’s could shoot my family #RyanTwyman 37 times while unarmed & murder him in cold blood???"

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Photo by Brian Feinzimer.
Photo by Brian Feinzimer.

Described unanimously as a “family man” by close friends, Twyman was the type of person who would empty his pockets to provide for family. He enjoyed taking his kids for “father daddy things” like amusement parks and play at Chuck E. Cheese’s, one friend said. ”Now it’s just gonna be mommy.”

“As long as his baby moms and kids were straight, he was fine,” a male childhood friend of Twyman’s told L.A. Taco.

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]here are few official details about what happened that night. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office has not released an autopsy report. Twyman was in his car with a friend and his girlfriend, both of whom were uninjured and later taken into custody, according to the GoFundMe page set up for Twyman's family.

It’s unclear what lead LASD to 13111 San Pedro Street – residents said there had been no word of a crime taking place before deputies arrived. The department said the shooting happened after deputies said they saw Twyman possessing a firearm. The deputies who shot him have not been identified.

According to witnesses, LASD unloaded on Twyman with pistols, then a deputy ran to the trunk of a patrol vehicle to grab a rifle and continue firing at Twyman. All totaled, they say Twyman was shot up to 37 times, a figure that has not been officially confirmed.

A week after the shooting, Twyman’s friends point to an array of bullet holes canvasing apartment walls where other residents stay. More than a dozen evidence markers (white circles) could be seen on the ground. Witnesses say the aftermath depicts a one-sided, massive barrage of bullets.

The neighbors said they could not conceive Twyman attempting to confront law enforcement officials. “Overall he was a giving person, a non-confrontational dude, it was hard to get into it with him,” a friend said.

Parking spot 134 was where Twyman was killed. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Parking spot 134 was where Twyman was killed. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)

On Friday, a vigil of candles, flowers, and red balloons honoring Twyman, or “Benzo” as he was known, were displayed near the parking spot labed 134, where he died. Bystanders peacefully listened to music, rolled blunts, and drank in his honor. “I would want Ryan to be remembered as a great father, a stand up dude, and someone that just took care of their business. That’s who he was,” said Ceddy Mack.

The harassment from the Sheriff’s Department is so constant at the South Bay Villa apartments that people actually speak highly of the LAPD. They explained that deputies roll up constantly on the property (their “favorite excuse is to say they heard loud music,” one said). Officials reach into their vehicles without probable cause or warrants, they said.

“LAPD come but they don’t really mess with us,” one remarked.

Friends wore T-shirts that read 'It Could Have Been Me.' (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Friends wore T-shirts that read 'It Could Have Been Me.' (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)

Hanging out is common at South Bay Villa, an activity that causes conflicts with law enforcement. Police mistake simply congregating after work for gang activity. Residents say they have nowhere else to hang out.

“They wont let us hang out in the park, so we chill here at our home,” a young, tattooed resident of the apartments told L.A. Taco. “People take one look at my tattoos and assume I’m a gangbanger, but I actually have a job … most of us are fathers and have jobs.”

Willowbrook is under two jurisdictions controlled by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the Century Division and Compton Division. LAPD can also make stops in L.A. County jurisdictions.

Residents showed L.A. Taco the bulletholes and where casings fell. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)
Residents showed L.A. Taco the bulletholes and where casings fell. (Photo by Brian Feinzimer)

The scenario that ended with Twyman’s shooting sounded familiar to his mourners.

Residents say that getting approached by officers while sitting in their cars is very common. Sometimes cops reach into their cars without permission. A recent video on Instagram uploaded by a friend of Twyman’s illustrates an interaction with police where they reach into his car to open his door without stating probable cause.

A teary-eyed friend of Ryan’s baby’s mother told L.A. Taco that the shooting encouraged her to get in contact with her own baby’s father, and try to foster a better relationship. “I wasn’t talking to him until I found out about this,” the woman said. “I just felt like it could have been him.”

Names have been left out of this story to protect the identities of witnesses.

RELATED: Major Shift on Police: Cops Will Have to Release Body Camera Footage and Records on Bad Behavior

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