Hundreds honor Pasadena sports youth leader fatally shot on Christmas Day (Photos)

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They came in sports clothes and work clothes, suits and cleats, from Glendale and Watts – a crowd of about 400 friends honored a Pasadena youth leader Thursday whose life was cut short Christmas Day in a drive-by shooting.

“He was a good man,” said 14-year old Matthew Gibson. “I don’t know why this happened to him.”

Victor McClinton, 49, died Christmas morning outside his Pasadena home while greeting holiday visitors. Police investigating the shooting believe McClinton was an innocent by-stander caught between a gunman and another person who was the target. 

McClinton was a well-known youth sports leader in Pasadena and a volunteer football coach who helped grow The Brotherhood Community Youth Sport League from the ground up. He also worked for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a technician for 18 years.

“I’ve never met a person in my life that came from so little and gave people so much,” said close friend Jacque Bolton.

McClinton, who was raised by his biological grandmother, grew up in Watts never knowing his father. His close friends say playing organized sports when they were kids helped him find a father figure and inspired him to build The Brotherhood Community Youth Sports League in Pasadena.

As a coach, friends say he never let a kid sit out a game because they couldn’t afford cleats, the game uniform or a ride to practice. It was his goal to give any child that wanted an opportunity to participate in sports an equal playing field and have a fun time with others.

Many people who attended the candlelight vigil said they knew McClinton because their son or daughter, who are now adults, had participated in the sports program when they were kids.

“He was so good to our kids,” said Craig Higa choking back tears. His now 30-year old son used to play basketball and flag-football for McClinton ever since his son was five.

“About once a year, I’d try to go by and say hi to Victor,” Higa said. “You always regret that you didn’t go see a man like him more.”

“Look around here today,” said close friend Danny Bakewell. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, how old you are, how young you are…you are all a part of Victor McClinton’s life and he was a part of yours.” 

The Pasadena police chief said ballistic testing of a handgun that was thrown out of a vehicle window during a police pursuit that happened later on Christmas Day could determine whether that incident is linked to the fatal shooting of McClinton.

Four suspects arrested after that pursuit remain in jail. Police are expected to hand the case over to the L.A. County District Attorney’s office Friday for potential criminal charges.

“Maybe it’s wrong place wrong time, but how can you say that when you were in front of your home,” said 18-year old Mickey Cockrell who used to play basketball with the youth group. “It just hurts.”

Board members of The Brotherhood Crusade pledged to keep McClinton’s legacy and the youth sports group he ran nearly single-handily alive.

During the vigil, friends comforted each other with hugs and stories about how McClinton touched their family or lent a helping hand. They updated each other about their kids, including where they are going to college and what sport they are playing now. But too many times, old friends shook hands and said their farewells with the message: “I’m sorry we had to see each other again under these circumstances.”

As the crowd of old friends, new friends and long ago friends huddled in the chilly wind, those close to McClinton asked people to live as their friend did.

“If I could help somebody as I pass along,” sang long-time friend Candice Lacey. “If I could cheer somebody with the word or a song. If I could show a somebody that he is traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain.”

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