South LA man who turned life around from gang member to peacemaker killed in shooting

Neighbors in South Los Angeles are mourning the loss of a beloved community member.

FOX 11 spoke with residents in the South Los Angeles community, who all said Craig "Big" Batiste couldn't have been a better person.

"He would help any kids. You can’t find many people who will do that these days," said Carmell Demerson, a friend of Big.

Nicknamed "Big," for the size of his heart, the 54-year-old man was gunned down while grabbing a cup of coffee with around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday near the intersection of West 111th Street and South Hobart Boulevard.

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Big, a former gang member, turned his life around more than 20 years ago and earned a neighborhood reputation as the community's peacemaker.

He was a father of four but to the community, he was everyone's dad. Big was known for walking troubled kids to and from school safely and then helping them get their lives on track.

"He’s going to make sure you got something to eat, backpacks for sure for the kids, security for the kids throughout the whole community and he just got a proposal for 31 schools for security," said Moses Gilbert, Big's lifelong friend.

"I don’t care what you need, he could get it for you. As far as somewhere to live, food clothing, he was a gang activist and all that stuff trying to get the neighborhood together," said Shadrica Jones, Big's friend.

Shadrica said she and Big had been close friends for more than 30 years.

"We've lost so many people on [West 112th Street]," she said. "From my other cousin to his ex-daughter-in-law, another son, a family friend all on one street and it makes no sense."

The community is now left wondering why anyone would want to hurt Big.

"I have no idea. I have no idea. It’s really heart-breaking. They don’t understand what they just did to a whole community, basically half of Los Angeles is going to miss Mr. Big. There are kids missing him today. There are kids who can’t go to school or eat today because of him," Moses said.

Investigators and friends aren't sure if the beloved community member was targeted.

"He was like a President. When his burial comes, it’s not going to be good. It’s going to be so sad," Carmell said.

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