Updated below with Terrell's July 23, 2018, acquittal.
A white teenager from an uber-wealthy community on the Palos Verdes Penninsula was a regular at a South L.A. park claimed by the Rollin’ 90s Neighborhood Crips, witnesses say.
Eighteen-year-old Cameron Terrell has been charged with murder in connection with the Oct. 1 shooting death of 21-year-old Justin Alongino Holmes. Prosecutors allege Terrell was the getaway driver in the attack and that he participated to further the exploits of the Rollin’ 90s. But unlike his African-American co-defendants, unidentified juveniles who are still behind bars in Sylmar, Terrell is free after bail of $5 million was posted. Days after walking away from lock-up, he was spotted at a World Series game at Dodger Stadium.
A representative for Terrell's attorney said via email that the teenager "denies all charges."
It's not clear how Terrell, who comes from a community, Palos Verdes Estates, that has a higher median family income than Malibu's, became involved with the gang. But Lawrence Bowie Sr., the father of a co-defendant, says Terrell was a regular at Jesse Owens Park, a home base for the Rollin’ 90s.
In a recent video interview with journalist and political commentator Jasmyne Cannick, Bowie said, "We were shocked when he started popping up over here," but "we accepted him." He said Terrell was in the area "all the time."
"Many occasions he pulled up at my house in his brand-new Mercedes-Benz," Bowie said. "He's not the person so innocent like the people on the news are trying to pretend. He was down here. He was involved and he was out here with the same kids that's in this community. He didn't just pop up this one time only. Didn't nobody force him."
According to the complaint filed against him, Terrell is facing allegations of murder, premeditated attempted murder and enhancements that claim he committed the crimes to benefit his gang, the Rollin’ 90s. Police say Holmes was gunned down in rival territory, at 78th Street and Western Avenue, even though he's not a member of the local gang, the Eight Tray Gangster Crips.
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that Holmes was walking with two other people when "they were confronted by two armed suspects."
"The suspects asked Holmes and his friends where they were from," according to the department. "One of the
suspects fired multiple shots, striking Holmes. The suspects then fled the area in a vehicle. Neither Holmes or his friends were involved in gang activity."
A family member of Holmes’ contacted by L.A. Weekly also said the victim was not a gang member.
Bowie offered condolences to the family of the victim and said he feels their pain: His daughter and baby granddaughter were killed in a fast-moving fire in Inglewood nearly three years ago. "I know the pain and the hurt that they're going through," he said. "First of all I'd like to apologize to their family. I'm sorry for whatever happened to their child."
The father was critical, however, of Terrell's ability to walk free. "My son's going through hell in the juvenile system," he said. "He just turned 17."
"Because of the color issue, [Terrell] is able to walk the streets and be free to go to school, go to baseball
games," Bowie said. "He was in the same case with my son. He's free to roam the street and do whatever he wants to do."
Cannick says the context of the case shows that Terrell should be scrutinized as any other gang member would.
"Another life was lost to gang-related violence — and we have to remember that when talking about this story," she says. "He was an active part of whatever was going on over there and he’s well known to be in the area. The fact that he was allowed bail in a murder and attempted murder gang homicide case is still astonishing. Even with California's bail schedule, this is a special-circumstances case and Terrell should be behind bars without the benefit of bail as is usually the case in this type of situation."
A youth counselor and former gang member known as "Nutt" told Cannick that Terrell has been a regular at Jesse Owens Park in 2017 and that he would drive around the neighborhood. He also alleged that the teen is "not as innocent as everybody would say."
"He was down here all the time hanging with these kids," he said. "The streets are hard out here. Now the pressure is on, you flee back to Palos Verdes to a safe haven that you know."
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He subsequently told L.A. Weekly that Terrell "was around here daily, hanging out, running with the kids in the neighborhood."
Nutt says he was counseling Terrell's co-defendants as part of his Rizilient Leadership Educational Development Program (LEDP) program. "Unfortunately they got caught up in the street life," he says. "Everybody's life has been altered. It's another young death in the streets, and it's sad."
Updated 3 p.m. on July 24, 2018: Terrell was acquitted Monday on charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder, after jurors deliberated nearly a week. His lawyer, Jovan Blacknell, told the L.A. Times, “At best, the evidence suggests that Cameron was a witness, and that’s it.”