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Crime & Justice

19-year-old alleged gang member arrested in July 4 killing of Unique Russell



Unique Russell, 14, was fatally shot on July 4 as she watched fireworks in the Westmont neighborhood.
Unique Russell, 14, was fatally shot on July 4 as she watched fireworks in the Westmont neighborhood.
José Martinez/KPCC
Unique Russell, 14, was fatally shot on July 4 as she watched fireworks in the Westmont neighborhood.
Michael Staton, 19, was arrested this morning in connection with Russell's killing and charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and an additional charge related to his gang involvement.
José Martinez/KPCC
Unique Russell, 14, was fatally shot on July 4 as she watched fireworks in the Westmont neighborhood.
Russell's mother, Donna Wade (center) stands next to County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (right) at a Dec. 14 press conference during which the sheriff's department announced Michael Staton's arrest.
José Martinez/KPCC


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L.A. County Sheriff's homicide detectives have arrested a suspected gang member in connection with the murder of 14-year-old Unique Russell, who was fatally shot on the Fourth of July while she was watching fireworks in South Los Angeles.

Michael Staton, 19, was arrested in Compton Friday morning and charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and an additional charge related to his gang involvement.

Staon, who goes by the moniker "Crypto," is being held on $4 million bail.

At a Friday morning news conference, Lt. Mike Rosson of the sheriff's Homicide Bureau said there didn't appear to be a discernible motive.

"It was a senseless act of violence, and it tragically took Unique's life from her," he said.

Investigators also recovered two weapons – a .22 caliber revolver and a .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol – at an apartment building near 102nd Street and Budlong Avenue. They say the weapons may have been used in the shooting.

On July 4, Staton and another young man, described as a young black male, opened fire on a crowd in the Westmont neighborhood, killing Russell and wounding two others. Rosson said police are still "actively searching" for Staton's alleged accomplice, and are also investigating "other peripheral" people that may have played a role before after the shooting.

Speaking to reporters, Donna Wade, Russell's mother, said the tragedy of her daughter's death was amplified because of the holiday season. She told KPCC that gang violence is just a part of life in her neighborhood.

"I'm not the first," she said. "I'm not going to be the last. It happens all over, and it's just hard when it hits home.

"It's just senseless," Wade continued. "It's stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors had authorized a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. The sheriff's department said that money played a role in prompting area residents to step forward and provide tips.