By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Sherrills lived a peaceful life, according to loved ones. He was an excellent dancer and an aspiring model and actor. He had many girlfriends and loved them all, according to his sisters, who had to share a phone with him. “When Terrell died, God was surprised. It was not his time,” said his sister Lashawn Caldwell, breaking down before the congregation in the Agape Church.
“I wanted to play football because of Terrell,” his younger cousin Joshua said, shaking and gasping for air. “I learned to dance because of him. Everything I did was because of him. I don’t want to live anymore.”
Travis Mann, one of Sherrills’ best friends, said, “Terrell was my lung, my spare kidney, the left side of my heart . . . I should have been with him.”
Last Sunday, Aqeela Sherrills is sitting in the sanctuary of the Community Self-Determination Institute, at Hooper Avenue and 91st Street. He says he knows what the young men in the parking lot were thinking the day before. The elder Sherrills is not worried about retaliation for his son’s murder, however. He talks with his son’s friends every day. “It’s not about who did it, it’s about what made them do it,” Sherrills says.
He recalls a revelation he had as a teenager living in Jordan Downs, in the 1980s. “My best friend was killed in ninth grade, and I decided I wanted no part of gang life,” he says. “I stayed tight with my homies, but I would not participate. I’m proud of being from Watts. You can be from the hood and not caught up in it.”
His son made similar decisions, Sherrills says, and was raised in the bosom of a peace movement. He embodied everything his father has fought for, says Sherrills, who shares his son’s hazel eyes. “Terrell was living his life, the life of a free spirit, a natural leader,” he says. “He enticed people with his heart.”
But conflict is inevitable, both internal and external, Sherrills adds, frustration rising in his voice. And left unabated in either form, violence follows. He points to 11,000 shooting deaths in Los Angeles County over the last 20 years. “We are stuck in a cultural construct of revenge.”
Sherrills acknowledges that a gangster likely has taken his son. Yet gangs are not the problem, he says. “Gangs are the scapegoats for government officials to justify their budgets.” “The real violence occurs at home, and manifests itself on the street.”
Christine Pelisek contributed to this report.
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