Mother of slain son works to help families of homicide victims

Nicole Santa Cruz | LA Times | Homicide Report
Posted April 17, 2015, 5 a.m.

nonprofit org for victims familyIt’s been nearly 20 years since LaWanda Hawkins got the call that would change her life: Her 19-year-old son, Reginald, had been found shot to death off Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro.

Within the year, she and other parents founded Justice for Murdered Children, a nonprofit that advocates for families of homicide victims.

Since then, the San Pedro woman has been to candlelight vigils, marched around the city, helped pass legislation to aid crime victims and taken phone calls in the middle of the night from those going through the pain she knows so well.

Hawkins works out of a small, one-room office near the Port of Los Angeles painted with brightly colored rainbows and butterflies. (A brother of a homicide victim had been acting up in school, so she let him paint the office, Hawkins said.)

Photos of the dead adorn the walls. There’s a man in a graduation cap, a girl with barrettes in her hair. There’s also a new addition: a photo of Eliza Delacruz, the 3-week-old Long Beach baby who was kidnapped and killed in January.

“I will never forget that,” Hawkins said of the killing.

When Hawkins saw the news reports of the child found in an Imperial Beach dumpster, she felt she needed to help. She went down to Long Beach and to the neighborhood where she thought the family lived. She ran into the child’s grandmother, who was grief-stricken.

Hawkins told her she’d be back. She got into touch with the Long Beach Police Department and printed reward fliers in English and in Spanish. Two days later, she organized a vigil and walked door-to-door with the child’s grandmother to ask for help in solving the case.

The mission for her organization is simple. She hopes the group can help prevent homicide and also push for survivors to be treated with dignity and respect, especially by law enforcement.

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