Two arrested in shooting of Sidney Barrett Morris at L.A. Live

Two people now face murder charges in a brazen 2023 killing inside a restaurant in the heart of the downtown L.A. Live complex.

Investigators believe Phillip Pasco Clark, 33, was the man who stormed into Fixins’ Soul Kitchen on Figueroa Blvd. last November and gunned down Sidney Barrett Morris, 43, while he ate dinner. Morris was an educator and nephew of a Motown singer.

Clark “walked straight up to Mr. Morris and shot him in the back of the head,” Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said during a Thursday morning news conference.

Both Clark and 50-year-old Santana Kelly, who police say helped plot the killing, were arrested last week and charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said. Both pleaded not guilty in a brief court appearance Tuesday, and it was not immediately clear who their attorneys were.

Authorities declined Thursday to discuss a motive in the shooting or describe what, if any, relationship Morris had to the defendants.

The brash November shooting was the first homicide recorded at L.A. Live, the sprawling downtown arts and entertainment complex that houses nightclubs, concert venues, restaurants and the Arena where the Lakers, Clippers and Kings play home games. The hub opened to the public in 2007.

Police said a masked man, whom they have since identified as Clark, stormed into Fixins’ at 6:15 p.m. on Nov. 28. The popular eatery — which specializes in Southern food and serves generous portions of fried chicken and gumbo — is owned by Kevin Johnson, an All-Star guard for the Phoenix Suns and former mayor of Sacramento.

Barrett was shot three times and pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later, according to an autopsy report. A second victim was also struck, but police said she only suffered a graze wound.

Clark fled t in a vehicle driven by an unknown third party, authorities said. Kelly, who police said helped plot the killing, later burned the car, according to Gascón. He has also been charged with one count of arson.

Kelly was arrested in Palmdale on Friday, while Clark was captured in South L.A., according to Capt. Scot Williams, head of the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division. Williams would not say how the defendants knew one another other than they were “acquaintances.” Both are documented gang members, according to Williams, but he would not say what gang sets they belonged to.

Clark previously pleaded guilty to illegal firearms possession in 2020 and was placed on probation for two years, according to court records. Kelly was arrested in 2020 for possession of narcotics with intent to sell, but the case was dismissed due to a lack of a speedy trial. He was also charged with robbery, assault and evading police in 2001 but the case was dismissed when a judge reversed a decision to hold him for trial following a preliminary hearing.

It was not clear if a weapon had been recovered in the November shooting. Both defendants are due back in court on April 25.

Morris had worked in higher education for the better part of two decades, with his last posting as the coordinator of equity and diversity for California State University, Northridge. Gascón said Morris was studying to become a lawyer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, at the time of the shooting.

He was hired at CSU Northridge in 2019, after leaving the same position at UNLV. Originally from L.A. but born in Michigan, Morris was the nephew of Motown singer Barrett Strong, who penned a number of beloved soul tracks, including “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” according to an article published on CSU Northridge’s website.

Times staff writers Colleen Shalby and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

Source link

Posted In: