Frederick Taft, 57, was enjoying a day out at a family reunion in a Long Beach, Calif., park over the weekend when he was shot and killed inside the restroom.
Relatives believe that Taft, a doting grandfather, was targeted solely because of his race, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The fatal shooting occurred at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Pan American Park. where between 40 and 50 people, most of whom were black, had gathered for the family reunion.
Sakeena Christmon, a friend of Taft’s who was at the reunion party, said that she saw a man carrying a rifle run out of the bathroom after the shooting. She described the man as wearing khaki shorts, calf-high socks and a fishing hat.
As Taft was alone in the bathroom at the time of the shooting, Christmon believes that the killing was motivated by race, and preplanned.
“He came here on a mission to kill,” she insisted of the killer.
“It wasn’t a robbery. They didn’t take his wallet. So what else was it?” Mareatha Moore, the mother of Taft’s daughter, questioned.
Taft’s daughter, Corie, said that hours after the shooting, a softball player came from a nearby game to tell Taft’s relatives that his group had been harassed by a group of white men on bicycles who were hurling racial slurs. Shortly after that, a man pulled up in a white Prius, laughing and yelling something about a “187 in the park” (slang referencing section 187 of the California Penal Code which defines the crime of murder) before speeding off.
According to ABC7, there was also a racial slur carved into a nearby park bench where the family had gathered.
Long Beach police spokesperson Arantxa Chavarria, however, said that investigators had not “uncovered any evidence of a hate crime.”
“Evidence is still being collected and analyzed,” she told the Times.