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LAPD seeks public’s help in shooting death of food delivery driver

Detectives are seeking the public’s help in solving the slaying of a father of two shot to death last month while delivering a meal in Cypress Park.

Roderick Thomas, 56, had just delivered a meal for Postmates at 10:15 p.m. Dec. 15 in the 1400 block of Randall Court and was driving down a hill when he was shot once in the neck, the Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday.

Alert and conscious, Thomas called his partner, Ajane Smith, and told her he’d been shot, Smith said in an interview. She told him to call 911 and he managed to drive to a McDonald’s restaurant at the intersection of Figueroa Boulevard and Avenue 26.

LAPD officers and paramedics found Thomas inside his blue sedan, bleeding. He was taken to a hospital, where, despite surgery, he died of his wounds just before 11 p.m. Dec. 17, Smith said.

Thomas sent her his last text message the day he died, saying he “didn’t think he was going to be leaving here at all,” she recalled. “That haunts me.”

Smith described Thomas as a hardworking family man, a father to two teenaged sons who made deliveries for Postmates during the offseason for his primary job at oil refineries. Thomas was born in Toledo, Ohio, and moved as a child to South Los Angeles, where he resided at the time of his death, Smith said.

“He was not a gang member in any way,” she said. “He was not a criminal. He was an honest man just trying to make a living for himself and his sons.”

Smith said detectives had described the neighborhood where Thomas was shot as “gang-infested,” but she voiced doubts that a gang had mistaken her partner for a rival. She believes Thomas, who was Black, was targeted because of his race, alluding to the violence that has historically been directed at Black people in Northeast Los Angeles.

“They don’t like Black people in that area,” Smith said.

Four members of the Avenues, a Latino street gang named for the numbered avenues that traverse Highland Park, were convicted in 2006 of committing hate crimes — including two murders — in a campaign to drive Black residents out of a swath of Highland Park, Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock that the gang claims as its turf.

Gang defectors testified that Avenues gang members had agreed to attack and harass Black people in their neighborhood in an attempt to maintain its majority-Latino makeup.

Conflict between Latino and Black street gangs is nothing new in Los Angeles, but what sets apart the Avenues case, according to testimony and evidence presented at trial, was violence directed at Black people with no gang affiliations.

Avenues gang members shot a Black teenager riding his bike, pistol-whipped a Black jogger, chalked the outlines of human bodies and a racial slur on a Black family’s driveway, and shot two Black men to death, among other crimes.

Anyone with information about Thomas’ death is asked to call LAPD detectives at (213) 996-4174 or (213) 996-4161.

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