Teen shot Sunday at San Bernardino party dies; police seek gang member
|Download story podcast|
10:00 PM PDT on Friday, July 6, 2007
SAN BERNARDINO - As the partygoers around Demetrius Payne got rowdier, the former Pacific High sports standout got more uncomfortable.
He and his friends didn't know most of the crowd at the home in San Bernardino's Del Rosa area early Sunday, and as things began to escalate, they started to leave.
"There were a lot of people screaming," Payne's friend and former classmate, Jamal Smith, recalled of the party. "That was the problem."
Before the 19-year-old Payne and his friends could get off the property, someone fired into the crowd, fatally wounding Payne, detectives said.
Payne was placed on life support but died Thursday at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.
On Friday, sheriff's homicide detectives said the prime suspect is Quwonte Loveless, 18, identified as a San Bernardino gang member known as "Killer Tae."
Payne, a 2006 graduate of Pacific High School, was not the intended target and was not a gang member, said San Bernardino County sheriff's homicide Sgt. Frank Bell.
Loveless may have sprayed rounds into the crowd in an attempt to hit a man he had a dispute with at the party, Bell said.
"If there was an intended target," Bell said, "it wasn't our victim."
Friends rushed Payne to St. Bernardine Medical Center in their own car. After the extent of his injuries became apparent, he was transferred to Arrowhead, according to San Bernardino County coroner's officials.
In the hours after the shooting, detectives with the sheriff's Central Station and the department's gang unit served search warrants at the nearby Cedarwood Apartments, the complex where gang members mistakenly gunned down 11-year-old Mynisha Crenshaw in November 2005.
They quickly identified Loveless as a suspect but have been unable to locate him.
Meanwhile, tributes to Payne, affectionately known as "Meechie," have poured in from his friends on MySpace.com, and from his former baseball coach at Pacific High.
"Just a wonderful kid," said Leon Baham, who coached Payne during his freshman year at Pacific in 2003. "He had the best smile, and was one of those kids who could just make you crack up laughing. He kept us all loose."
Smith said that Payne, who also played football, attended San Bernardino Valley College and hoped to study criminal justice. The two friends both worked as private security guards to save for college.
"He just kept everything alive, and was always trying to go out somewhere," Smith said. "He was just the man."
Smith said he and Payne had heard about the party through friends, and didn't know what kind of crowd would be there. They were there only 45 minutes.
The sheriff's department asks anyone with information to call sheriff's Detective Rick Messersmith or Bell at 909-387-3589. Anonymous callers may use the department's tip line at 1-800-782-7463.
Reach Paul LaRocco at 909-806-3064 or plarocco@PE.com
BS Ranch Perspective
No matter how much things Change: The more that they stay the same!! Unfortunately the loss of a life in this case, and it was a Gang member that felt that he had to shoot at what maybe he perceived as another Gang member, maybe he missed his intended target as many times in this case this happens!! But, still a life is taken!
I just want to say that My prayers, and my thoughts are going to the family members that are left to grieve over the life that was lost here. It is never a good thing when a life is lost, I just pray that God has a wonderful job for him to do, with his collage background and that he will be able to help the good lord in every way.