LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A South Los Angeles playground was officially renamed in honor of a 15-year-old girl who was killed over 30 years ago, an event which served as a precursor to the L.A. Riots.
The Latasha Harlins Playground, located at the Algin Sutton Recreational Center at 8800 Hoover St., was unveiled Thursday morning by L.A. City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Harlins’ grandmother and brother clutched one another as the new playground sign was unveiled.READ MORE: Pedestrian Struck and Killed In Compton
On March 16, 1991, Harlins was shot to death by a clerk at a liquor store. The clerk told police she thought Latasha was trying to steal a bottle of orange juice in her backpack. The two struggled and she shot Harlins as she was walking away. However, Los Angeles police investigators later said Latasha had the money for juice still clutched in her hand when she was killed.
The clerk, Soon Ja Du, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to probation and community service.
The incident occurred just two weeks after the beating of Rodney King. Anger and outrage at her death helped feed the flames that ultimately led to the L.A. Riots which began on April 29, 1992. The riots ended with 63 dead and more than $1 billion in damage to Koreatown and South L.A.READ MORE: Firefighters Battle Pacific Palisades Brush Fire
“Her being a young 15-year-old, I feel that that whole story was really overshadowed by the Rodney King incident,” local artist Victoria Cassanova told CBSLA last month after painting a mural of Harlins at Algin Sutton.
A documentary about Harlins titled “A Love Song for Latasha” was among the Oscar nominees in the documentary short subject category this past Sunday.
Harlins’ grandmother, Ruth Harlins, told CBSLA Thursday that her granddaughter used to love to come to the park. Her family hopes others will look up and be inspired by the teen who said she wanted to help those who actually need it.
“Create more love, bring love back to the community, bring more value back,” Harlins’ brother Vestor Acoff told CBSLA Thursday.MORE NEWS: Jerry West Insulted At Being Left Off Jeanie Buss’ Top 5 Lakers List
Rodney King’s daughter, Lora King, was also in attendance at Thursday’s sign unveiling.