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The family of a California teen who was shot, killed and dumped on a highway this month are demanding answers after nearly three weeks have passed with no arrests.
Tioni Theus, 16, was last seen alive on Jan. 7 after leaving her father’s house on her way to a party, according to the Los Angeles Times. The following morning, her body was found dumped on an Interstate 110 on-ramp on Manchester Avenue in South Los Angeles. She’d been shot two times in the neck, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.
“Dumped on the freeway like nothing,” her father Darien Jackson told Los Angeles CBS affiliate KCAL. “That just broke me down. It hurt me, it’s like... who could be so cold like that?”
California Highway Patrol concluded her death was the result of an “apparent homicide,” according to an incident report.
Officials, who have yet to identify a suspect, are now seeking the public’s help in solving the teen’s homicide.
On Wednesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $50,000 reward from the state for information related to the capture of Theus' killer.
L.A. City Council members Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson have also introduced a motion this week to funnel $50,000 in city funds into that reward pot. The motion, which Oxygen.com obtained, is expected to pass next week, according to Price's communications director Angelina Valencia.
County Supervisor Holly Mitchell is also advocating for the county to kick in an additional $10,000 in reward money.
"Tioni was just beginning her life, with all the possibilities ahead of her, ripped away in an instant," Council Member Price said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Wednesday. "It’s heart-wrenching to think that someone who had so much promise and the world at her feet could be taken in such a cruel manner."
"The cries of the community have called us to be the voice for a young girl, a child, who had her life ripped away in the most horrific way possible," Price added. "I'm pleased to see all of the collective forces standing united in the name of Tioni Theus and all of the other unnamed black and brown girls who have become the victims of senseless violent acts."
Theus’ family is planning a rally this coming Saturday to urge the state’s elected officials to issue those reward funds quickly, noting that the suspect in the fatal stabbing of 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer was swiftly apprehended after a $250,000 reward was issued by the city and through community donations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The murder of Tioni Theus is shocking in its brutality,” Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department, also told Oxygen.com in a statement. “But the murders of Black women and girls that go unsolved is nothing new. Time and time again, our community faces higher rates of violence while being treated like less of a priority. ... Black women and girls matter, their suffering matters, and they deserve justice.”
“Our family is heavily on the pursuit to find justice, get closure and start healing," Theus' cousin, Nafeesah Kincy, told Fox News Digital. "This has absolutely been devastating to us, and it should be to the community as well – we have to get to a point where we won’t tolerate young girls being murdered and forgotten about.
“We have so many questions,” another cousin, Rashida Kincy told CBS Los Angeles. “Everybody is in disbelief.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and other city officials acknowledged the larger context case at the press conference on Wednesday morning to outline the reward.
“Far too many times, our news and media outlets make the choice to uphold conventional thinking when it comes to the devaluation of Black women and girls,” Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson said at that event. "Today my colleagues have joined me in introducing a reward motion that crosses county, city and district boundaries to encourage anyone who knows the perpetrator to come forward and bring peace to Tioni’s family, friends and our South Los Angeles community.”
Authorities haven’t released additional information regarding Theus’ murder. A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment this week.
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