Los Angeles officials are offering rewards of $50,000 apiece for information leading to arrests in three separate homicide cases in Pacoima ? one from nearly a year and a half ago and two during the coronavirus pandemic ? that police have been trying to solve with no luck.

Three families with around two dozen family members and friends joined Los Angeles Police Department detectives on Wednesday on the sidewalk outside the Foothill Community Police Station to announce the awards. Some held photos of their slain husbands and sons, or wore T-shirts emblazoned with their faces.

While police said none of the killings were connected, the circumstances were similar. Police believe local gang members committed all three killings, and targeted men who were not members of gangs themselves. All three were shootings. And all three have been particularly difficult to crack, with possible eyewitnesses who so far have not come forward.

?They?re not connected at all ? these (victims) are not gangs members. These are not criminals,? said LAPD Lt. Jim Gavin. ?These are innocent people trying to make a living for their families, who were at the early stages of their lives. They had everything in front of them, and had everything taken from them.?

The oldest of the killings involved the youngest victim: 18-year-old Michael Kelly was shot to death on Feb. 15, 2019 while walking through a strip mall parking lot with a friend near Van Nuys and Glenoaks boulevards.

Gavin said two men in a dark-colored sedan approached Kelly and his friend, then asked Kelly if he ?banged.? Kelly said ?no.? The men in the car opened fire on him anyway, leaving him dying on the pavement.

Kelly?s foster father, Ronnell, said he and his wife adopted the boy when he was just a baby.

Michael Kelly was a graduate of Symlar Biotech Health Academy. He was in the process of joining the U.S. Marine Corps when he was discharged due to a medical issue.

He?d recently gotten a job, a tearful Ronnell Kelly said, adding: ?He was just getting his life together when this happened.?
The killing of Kelly is LAPD Valley Homicide?s only unsolved slaying from 2019, said Detective Mark O?Donnell, who commands detectives in the Pacoima area.

Gavin said this was the first time in his career that he?d seen the city offer three different awards, together totaling $150,000, at the same time for three cases. City Council Councilwoman Monica Garcia, who was present with the families Wednesday, recently presented all three awards to the council for approval.

Between all of the cases, there could be a dozen or more potential suspects.

Another factor connecting the deaths: Pacoima?s large population of undocumented immigrants, who may fear coming forward to police.

In at least two of the cases ? the killing of Kelly, as well as the killing of 27-year-old Omar Medina ? there were dozens of potential witnesses.

In Medina?s killing, which occurred at a house party and cockfighting ring just down the street from the Foothill Station on Feb. 22 of this year, anywhere from 60 to 70 people were present at the time of the shooting. And yet no witnesses have come forward so far.

There were likely dozens of witnesses at the strip mall where Kelly was killed, said Detective Eloy Navarro, who?s been investigating the killings since last year.

Nearby security camera footage was no help ? it was raining that night, making footage grainy. And the driver of the suspect vehicle maneuvered just out of sight of a city security camera in the area.

The pandemic has also made solving the killings far more complicated.

Finding witnesses is even more difficult when LAPD, among other safety measures, has banned employee travel. Interviews these days are limited to video apps like Zoom.

?It?s just slowed everything down,? Navarro said. ?We have to convince them to Zoom meet with us.?

Davon Pledger

Davon Pledger, 26, was the last of the three killed. He was shot to death on May 9 while standing outside a friend?s house on Cornelius Street at 10:40 p.m.

Detectives said three men in a dark sedan drove up to the house, then fired at Pledger, hitting him multiple times.

Around a dozen of Pledger?s family members and friends spoke outside Foothill Station on Wednesday. His mother, Gerry Lang, said her son was a family man. He wasn?t involved in gangs ? he held down two jobs to provide for his sons, ages 2 and 4.

Lang was convinced the shooters targeted her son randomly.

?You took his life and didn?t even know who he was,? Lang said. ?I can?t get him back. Nothing can replace him.?

Omar Medina

The scene were Medina was killed was one of the most complicated of the three. The 27-year-old was attending a cockfight at a home near Montague Street and Telfair Avenue at around 12:30 a.m.

Medina called his wife, Brianna, not long before the shooting. He told her he felt uncomfortable and wanted to go home.

On Wednesday, Brianna Medina said she didn?t suspect anything was wrong after the call. She drove to the house, then heard gunshots as she waited for her husband. She ran in the backyard and found him dying.

Police said around 10 men had turned on Omar Medina, accusing him of being from a rival gang, then pummeling him before multiple men shot him to death. Dozens of people fled into the neighborhood immediately after the shooting.

When police arrived, roosters were found wandering the streets nearby. Dozens of beer bottles and cans littered the backyard.

Brianna Medina said her husband, who had five children, was a horse groomer at a stable in Moorpark.

?He loved horses, and he loved animals,? she said.