After more than a year and a half, authorities have charged four suspected gang members in connection with the 2016 killing of a 1-year-old girl who was shot in her crib in Compton, officials said Wednesday.
The four suspects in the Feb. 9 killing of Autumn Johnson in the 300 block of North Holly Avenue have all been taken into custody or were already incarcerated, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Davion Douglas, 27, Denzel Hull, 25, and Ronzay Richards, 24, have each been charged with murder and attempted murder, officials said.
Ray Patterson, 24, who was arrested on suspicion of murder last year but then released, has now been charged with being an accessory to murder, officials said.
Hull, who is already incarcerated on an unrelated burglary charge, was also charged with attempted murder in an unrelated incident in Compton about a month after Autumn was killed, Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said. Douglas and Patterson are also already incarcerated; Richards was taken into custody Wednesday, authorities said.
The case made national headlines last year as the city struggled to combat gang violence. In 2016, 33 people were killed, the most since 2013, when 39 people were killed.
Jeffery Wandick, Autumn’s grandfather, said sheriff’s detectives were diligent in investigating the child’s killing.
“They never stopped looking,” he said. “This case never went cold.”
Wandick said he still lives in the neighborhood, which has quieted considerably since Autumn was slain.
“That touched everybody,” he said. “She was innocent. She had nothing to do at all with any of this stuff.”
Originally, authorities said the gunman was aiming for Autumn’s father, but Corina said Wednesday that the gunman appeared to be targeting another man who was standing in front of the residence. Corina said the suspects are all from a rival gang’s neighborhood.
Cracking the case took “a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck,” Corina said.
“Gang cases are hard to solve,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to get involved or say anything.”
That night, about 7 p.m., Autumn’s mother, Blanche Wandick, was preparing her daughter a bottle. Autumn was standing in her crib when she was shot in the head.
Sheriff’s officials said at the time that a gunman got out of a blue Chevrolet Impala, walked toward the home and fired toward the garage. The gunman then got back into the car, which was seen heading south on North Holly Avenue.
Autumn’s father cradled his daughter in his arms, shouting, “My baby’s been shot! My baby’s been shot!” Deputies who responded to the shooting took Autumn to the hospital themselves rather than wait for paramedics; her father rode in the backseat with her.
Autumn, described by a family member as “the center of attention and joy,” had only recently learned to walk. A tiny baby at birth, she was called “Minnie” by family. She had just celebrated her first birthday with cake — with yellow and pink frosting — and Minnie Mouse balloons.
“Her smile would make you feel so good inside,” Marques Slaughter, the child’s uncle, previously told The Times.
After the killing, officials announced a $75,000 reward for information leading to the suspect or suspects. Corina said that it was not the reward but detective and police work that led to the arrest.
Authorities had to track people down and get them to talk, he said.
Blanche Wandick was pregnant when Autumn was killed. Her son is now 18 months old, her father said.
By Nicole Santa Cruz * Contact Reporter / October 4, 2017, 8:30 PM