By Kadrica Yearby
I am the sister of David Deshun Cooper. I am writing this on behalf of our family with the intent to address the lack of justice for Deshun’s murder two years ago.
The District Attorney’s office's only consideration in Deshun's case was to obtain an easy conviction, regardless of whether they prosecuted the actual shooter, Randy Leverette, or others who were behind the conspiracy to plan and execute his murder.
They executed my brother on July 17, 2018. As Deshun approached a vehicle in which Leverette sat, Leverette immediately began shooting Deshun in the chest and proceeded to chase him down, stand over him and fire five more shots as he lay there unarmed and bleeding on the pavement.
We were informed by the District Attorney, Ken Maudlin, that this crime was gang-related and Leverette shot in self-defense because he feared he was going to be disciplined for bringing shame to the gang in a previous incident. Even though Deshun was unarmed, my brother was the only individual who was shot.
While discussing these actions of said shooter inside the DA’s conference room, my family questioned how could Leverette be considered to have killed Deshun in self-defense? Where was the imminent threat, which is the only time you can lawfully discharge a gun at another person?
It seems to us that Leverette had already eliminated any perceived threat when he shot Deshun the first three times in the chest. But instead of fleeing from the so-called imminent danger, Leverette ran behind Deshun and fired five more times as he lay helplessly on the ground fighting to survive.
This is when Detective Paul Johnson claimed that my brother, in his dying words, said he was in a gang. Yet the District Attorney's Office took the word of the shooter, the one person who would stand to lose the most and would have the most reason to lie. Leverette did ALL of the shooting. We provided additional information, and the names of individuals who could assist with their investigation.
We still were told by Ken Mauldin that it was self-defense. We were appalled, shocked, and in disbelief that an experienced district attorney could investigate and conclude to pursue this direction. I am not a lawyer obviously, but I do have some common sense, and my family and I strongly disagree with the DA. When my family expressed their objections, we were met with various excuses on how their scenario of events would make it easier to obtain a conviction.
Maudlin had the audacity to state that we did not know which bullet was the fatal shot, as if the other shots did not count. Really?
My brother was brutally murdered, and we as a family are very much offended and frustrated that an elected official such as the DA could be so obtuse, and insensitive to our loss. Mr. Maudlin's justification of eight bullet wounds being self-defense, especially since five of the shots were to Deshun’s back is beyond ludicrous!
Mauldin then began to question whether my brother was a gang member. It felt as though we were constantly defending our deceased and beloved son. As a matter of fact, the meeting was more like a long, continuous argument, and definitely unproductive to be sure.
I do not feel as if we were treated like a victim's family. We were chastised by our DA as if we were his subordinates, when my family and I felt a significant loss. Maudlin even refused to show us the officer’s bodycam on multiple occasions.
The victim advocate director for the DA’s office even stated to me that, my brother was dead “because he was in a gang." That comment was said when I questioned the investigation and what progress they had made as the investigation continued. It became clear to my family and I that for them the investigation was over. They were unwilling to look at my brother's murder as a murder, but instead preferring what they felt was an obtainable conviction.
No justice only injustice. My brother Deshun's death was a horrific crime, yet his killer, Randy Leverette, walks around with his freedom after serving only five months in the county jail. This is incomprehensible that a cold-blooded, malicious. and without a doubt very personal murder would be vindicated by our elected DA.
One grand jury declined to indict Leverette for Deshun’s murder, and what we would like is for another grand jury to be shown ALL of the evidence, which could only lead them to conclude that Leverette murdered Deshun, and other members of the Piru street gang conspired to carry out a planned “hit” on my brother.
Among other evidence, we would like for the grand jury to be shown body cam footage from the first officer to respond. We were told by Assistant District Attorney James Chafin that this crucial piece of evidence -- a video of Deshun speaking before he died and naming the shooter and giving the reasons behind the shooting -- was withheld from the first grand jury because it was not relevant!
I ask you who, or, what determines the value of life? Which leads me to also question our entire justice system and the limitations and restrictions that are so often punitive to individuals of color.