EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — She’s no longer here, but the memory of Leah Evan’s daughter is never out of her mind.
“I did get to hug her 10 hours before she died, which was a blessing,” Evans said of her last interaction with Chloe, before she was gunned down in a car-to-car shooting in 2019.
The South LA middle school teacher is caught in the middle of multiple crisis: the Covid-19 pandemic, remote learning and rising gang violence in her neighborhood. Gang related crimes are up 64% year-over-year, according to statistics from the Los Angeles Police Department.
It’s hitting South LA the hardest. Detectives believe Chloe’s alleged killer is a gang member.
“According to evidence and witnesses, he was stating where he was from, the gang set, so that’s why enhancements apply in this situation,” Evans said.
In February, Evans told the Police Commission she’s upset new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is no longer charging gang enhancements, even as police say gang violence is driving an overall increase in violence.
Gascón is a member of a progressive group of criminal justice reformers, the Prosecutors Alliance, which aims to end long sentences that fuel mass incarceration.
The group’s founder, Cristine Soto Deberry, said 98% of California inmates behind bars for gang enhancements are Black or Latino.
“It is a tool that has exacerbated already problematic racial disparities in our system,” Deberry said.
Leah Evans agrees there is a need to reform gang enhancements. She voted for Gascón and knows people who have been unfairly charged with gang enhancements, but she said sometimes increased punishment is necessary.
“There’s issues with the enhancements that have always existed that need to be addressed, but then there are real cases that the enhancement should apply to,” Evans said.
And while she seeks justice for Chloe, she’s sent her teenage son to Georgia to live with his father.
“I didn’t see this coming with her. I didn’t see her dying in this way, so it was a shock. If I have the power to prevent it from happening to my other kids, of course I’m going to take advantage of that even though it hurts really bad that he’s away from me,” she said.