Lloyd Avery II
The Life & Death of
"I like to call it the Tupac Syndrome"
Who was Lloyd Avery II?
Few knew his name, but many would remember Lloyd Avery II for his memorable role in John Singleton’s 1991 Oscar-nominated film Boyz n the Hood, as the gang member who leaned out of the window of the bright red 1988 Hyundai Excel wielding a sawn-off shotgun to blast Morris Chesnut’s character, the promising high school football star Ricky Baker, as he ran for his life in the gang infested neighbourhood of Crenshaw in Los Angeles.
The Early Life Of Lloyd Avery II
From a young age, Lloyd Avery II had wanted to be a musician, but a career in films soon became his burning passion. But after starring in Singleton’s movie, Avery’s career took somewhat of a step backwards, and few knew his private life was becoming eerily similar to that of the on-screen character that kick-started his acting work. His transition from Hollywood actor to an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison is a tragic journey of one man reaching the precipice of fame, only to bring about his own downfall.
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Lloyd Avery II's Early Childhood
Lloyd Fernandez Avery was born on June 21, 1969, and grew up in a working-class neighbourhood next to Baldwin Hills, known as the Black Beverly Hills in L.A. Along with his brother Ché, father Lloyd Sr. and mother Linda, the Avery’s were a quiet middle-class family. Their father was a man of many skills, a qualified plumber, electrician, and an expert carpenter who operated his own business, while his wife was a stay-at-home mom until the late 1980’s, when she worked in banking.
Avery had a comfortable childhood, and Ché would later say, “We were silver spoon kids. We never needed for nothing.” Unlike some of their friends, the family of six had a pool in their backyard at View Park. Raised in a Christian household, their parents instilled in the boys and their sister the value of a good education, and they were enrolled into school integration programs, with Lloyd attending Beverly Hills High School. There, he excelled in baseball and water polo.
Lloyd Avery II Growing Up
Often seen driving his brown Pinto, doing donuts near the swim gym, Avery was considered the class clown, usually telling jokes to his classmates. Despite his shy nature sometimes, he was known as a fun person to be around, and although he didn’t date much, the girls in his lectures were enamoured with his pretty boy looks and long eyelashes.
Some of his closest friends were the children of some of most well known celebrities in the music business, such as musician and songwriters Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson and Clarence Avant. Avery and his fellow students would often attend house parties on the weekends, meeting up in mansions while the parents were on vacation.
But Avery didn’t drink or do drugs, instead he liked to play a game called party and pouch, in which people would, as actor and friend Doran Reed refers to it, “steal shit at parties just to steal shit.” But at this point in his life Avery was no budding criminal, he was more of an attention-seeker, a troublemaker with a high-pitched laugh, who wasn’t interested in gang culture until after 1991.
Avery had a knack for exposing insecurities, pushing buttons, and developed something of a sarcastic streak which sometimes provoked a reaction. Sometimes things got violent. Avery’s friend Brent Rollins, the art director and graphic designer who created the logo for Boyz N the Hood, recalls how one time comedian Robin Harris attacked Avery at a Jet magazine photoshoot minutes after meeting him.
“I don’t know what Lloyd said to him,” says Rollins, “All I remember is that Robin Harris was choking him against a sofa.” But his incessant needling was just one negative part of his larger personality. “He had a mischievous streak and a really sweet streak,” Rollins says. “The day before Christmas Eve, he would drive around to people’s houses to give them Christmas cards. Who does that?”
Lloyd Avery II's First Incarceration
Avery was also impulsive, and reckless, something which led to his first incarceration. During one night in 1988, Avery and several friends, including Doran Reed, were leaving a UCLA party in Westwood when they were approached by a group of frat brothers. Avery cracked a joke, some words were exchanged between groups, and soon a fight broke out. Then just as a patrol car appeared down the street, three gunshots rang out.
Although Avery wasn’t the one who fired the weapon, he was carrying a fake ID, and as a result spent three days in jail. His friends grew concerned afterward, not because of the circumstances of what happened but because of Avery’s reaction to it. “What scared me was that Lloyd was laughing about it,” says Avery’s friend Keith Davis. “He told me that he really liked jail. It’s like, how the hell do you get locked up and you just enjoy it? He was so flippant.”
Working with his Father, Lloyd Avery Sr, and Being Cast
After dropping out of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, Avery worked alongside his father, but didn’t want to follow in his footsteps despite being a developing a gift as a handyman. Avery had a passion was music, but his father disapproved, so much so that he once took a baseball bat to his son’s SP1200.
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“He wasn’t all that happy with the choices Lloyd had made,” his mother Linda Avery says. “But what his father wanted for Lloyd wasn’t for Lloyd.” It seemed Avery had learned a valuable lesson from the incident, but not the one his father had intended. In June 1990, he was arrested for stealing studio equipment from a Guitar Centre.
It was around this time that Avery would get his big break, albeit unexpected. A friend, John Singleton, was making his first feature film. As Avery would later explain during his murder trial, “I met the right person at the right time, and they put me in a movie.” An Inglewood native, Singleton had excelled at the Filmic Writing program at USC and was a two-time winner of the Jack Nicholson Screenwriting Award.
Lloyd Avery II & Boyz n the Hood (1991)
He had aspirations to make movies, and with his undeniable raw talent he had a drive to succeed. Shortly after graduation, Columbia Pictures agreed to film Singleton’s script for Boyz N the Hood with him as the director. The cast was made up of, like Avery, mostly locals, for which Singleton intended to keep a sense of realism to his project which depicted gang culture and the lives of three young African-American’s growing up in South Central Los Angeles.
The film followed the friendship between Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character Tre Styles, and the Baker brother’s played by Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut. In one of the film’s most memorable scene’s, Chesnut’s Ricky Baker, a promising football star, and Gooding’s character go to the local store to pick up groceries. There they spot a group of Blood-affiliated gang members lead by Ferris, one of whom was played by Avery, and the two split up to escape any trouble.
Avery was required to be on set to show support even if he appeared on the day’s call sheet or not. His co-stars remember him as friendly and humble, and he apparently took direction well from his friend Singleton, who meticulously prepared Avery for his big scene, which just so happened to be the most iconic scene of the movie.
He instructed Avery at every turn, how to point the gun, how to generate a simultaneously cold-hearted and menacing stare, no detail was considered too small. But that days shooting did not get off to an encouraging start. The scene involved Cuba Gooding Jr., whose character was about to witness his best friend’s murder. At this stage in his career, he was a method actor and spent all morning in his trailer brooding.
Just before shooting started, Avery greeting him and Gooding snapped, “Don’t fucking talk to me right now!” A production assistant stepped in to diffuse the situation. Despite this discord on set, the finished scene is one of the most emotional in the film, a resulting masterclass in building tension, that culminates in Avery’s scene stealing appearance as Knucklehead #2.
“That shot of him out the window holding the gun is iconic,” says Malcolm Norrington, a college friend of Singleton’s who played Knucklehead #1. “John was so happy when he got that shot.” The gang members eventually catch up with Chestnut’s character who is tragically murdered.
Avery’s gun toting gang banger is seen leaning out of the window of Ferris’ bright red sports car, shooting Ricky twice with a double-barrelled shotgun, killing him instantly. Towards the end of the film, Ice Cube’s Darrin “Doughboy” Baker seeks revenge for the death of his brother and enlists Tre to help him.
In a moment of redemption, Tre Style’s heeds the advice of his father and returns home. Baker goes through with his plan and catches up with Ferris and his gang outside a local fast food restaurant, and as they attempt to flee they are cut down by shots from an AK-47. Avery’s character is killed outright, whilst his fellow gang member Ferris is executed by Cube’s “Doughboy”.
In a poignant aftermath Doughboy states his understanding of why his friend chose to leave before the murders, and explains how he too will soon face retaliation for his actions. The film represents themes of revenge and gang culture prevalent in Los Angeles, and would go on to become a critical and commercial success. The film was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 64th Academy Awards and was selected in 2002 for preservation in the the National Film Registry.
Becoming A Celebrity
His character, despite having only appeared in several small scenes, made Avery a celebrity around the neighbourhoods of Los Angeles because of his notorious role in the film as a member of the Crenshaw Mafia Gangsters. The 6’1” Avery was easily instantly recognizable and found himself ushered past the queues outside nightclubs.
Initially, he enjoyed his newfound fame and intended on fully exploiting it. He hired an agent and went on numerous auditions, and his future in the movie industry seemed unstoppable. With his African-American and Mexican descent and handsome good looks, it was believed the young Avery would go far, possibly even landing leading roles one day. During this time his music career began to take off as he produced “Push,” the lead single on actress Tisha Campbell’s debut album, Tisha.
Lloyd Avery II Starring In Poetic Justice
His acting career continued, this time he was cast in Singleton’s follow-up, Poetic Justice in 1993, alongside his Boyz co-star Dedrick D. Gobert. This new role of Thug #1 would hardly be considered a step up from his previous character of Knucklehead #2, but Singleton had plan to nurture Avery, who was, after all, an untrained actor. He starred alongside his brother Ché who played Thug #2, as well as Janet Jackson, Regina King and the late Tupac Shakur.
His cameo, where he once again murdered an innocent character, is the strongest thread connecting Poetic Justice as the successor to Boyz N the Hood. It is quite a different film from Singleton’s debut, being both a road-trip movie and love story, and is quieter and slower than Boyz but also unfocused. The film proved a disappointment with critics and underperformed at the box office. Poetic Justice would be a disappointment to Avery too.
In his own brash style, he let Singleton, and everyone else at the film’s premiere know exactly what he thought of it. As the closing credits rolled, Avery stood up and shouted, “That shit was wack, John.” The incident didn’t prove to be the end of Avery’s friendship with Singleton, but it was just the latest instance of “Lloyd being Lloyd,” as the actor’s inappropriate outbursts were termed.
Around this time, Avery was staying with Quincy Jones III, the producer and filmmaker known as QDIII, who resided in the Jungle, where Avery had already become a legend because of his role in Boyz N the Hood. “He probably got a pass for the fact that he killed someone as a Blood on film,” says Baldwin C. Sykes, a Compton native who played Monster in Boyz and says he receives similar praise because of his character on film.
“Up to this day, I have people say, ‘Monster, you shot the Blood — you represented. You should be down with my hood.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not down with a hood. That was an acting role.’” Avery thought differently, considered Knucklehead #2 as his claim to fame, a role that defined him. It would be a moment he would re-live off-screen.
Lloyd Avery II & The Black P Stone Bloods
Not long after the release of Boyz n the Hood, Lloyd Avery shocked those closest to him by moving away from his middle-class neighbourhood and relocating to an area known as the “Jungle”, the heavily Blood-affiliated neighbourhoods of Crenshaw Boulevard, Coliseum Street, Santo Tomas Drive and La Brea Avenue. Lloyd seemed to embrace the culture of his new home.
Malcolm Norrington, who played Knucklehead #1 alongside Avery’s Knucklehead #2 in Boyz n the Hood recalled his co-star during filming, “He was kind of meek, he was not anything near a street guy.” Norrington said, “Within a year of Boyz, I was hearing about him missing auditions. I don’t remember when I heard about him joining (a gang). I just remember being perplexed. To me, it was like, What is he doing Blooding? Lloyd?.”
His friend Keith Davis remembers the first time Avery revealed his Blood affiliation. “We were shopping at the Slauson Swap Meet,” he says. “Some Rollin’ 60’s came up and were like, ‘You’re the guy from Boyz N the Hood?’ ‘Yeah, that was me.’ ‘You shot Ricky, right?’ ‘Yeah, that was me.’ ‘Hey cuz, you really a Blood?’ ‘Yeah, what’s up, Blood?’ I was looking at him like, ‘What?’ Lloyd just kinda laughed. They asked him if he was a Blood, and it clicked, ‘Yeah, I’m a Blood now.’”
Avery’s association with the Bloods gang made little sense considering he grew up near Crip territory. Similarly he knew the dangers of gangbanging, after the streets had already claimed the life of his younger brother. His elder brother too was soon to take the wrong path in life, but on the opposite side his brother would choose. Ché Avery was admitted to UC Berkeley and UCLA after gaining a 3.6 GPA at Beverly Hills High. But decided he wouldn’t attend either school.
As he stated in a 1992 Los Angeles Times article, he “just felt some kind of attraction to the streets.” Unlike his younger brother, Ché didn’t hang with the rich kids at BHHS, though he claims to have partied with a Menendez brother on prom night. He dressed in Eazy-E cosplay, and although he wasn’t gangbanging yet, he felt there was a certain image he had to live up to.
Gang affiliation among R&B stars is something that was, and still is, prevalent, however very few actors have become embroiled in the gang-warfare of the streets. In November 1994, Avery’s Boyz and Poetic Justic co-star Dedrick D. Gobert became involved in a gang-related fight, during which he was shot dead along with a friend after attending an illegal street-race. The actor was killed just days before his 23rd birthday.
Ché Avery and the Rollin 60's Crips
He formed his own crew, the DGFs, which stood for ‘Don’t Give a Fucks’, and each night these young hoodlums went out looking for trouble after getting wasted. Eventually, Ché became feared. “Ché once came to a party with Lloyd and I,” Doran Reed recalls. “This whole other gang is there. All of a sudden, Ché starts throwing rocks at them. The other gang was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’
“One of them recognizes Ché and was like, ‘Ché? Oh, let it go.’ That whole gang was there, and they didn’t fuck with Ché. That’s a little insight into how crazy Ché was.” Ché soon graduated from the DGFs into the Rollin’ 60s, a notorious Crip set from the other side of Slauson. He was expected to put in work, a broad term that even today Ché struggles to explain;
“If you wanted to establish yourself as someone in your hood to be reckoned with, if you wanted to earn your stripes or even give your neighborhood a name, if you from a neighborhood and you already have a reputation of being troublemakers or being the toughest, then you have to not only defend your neighborhood but let’s go over here to such-and-such’s neighborhood and put in work without saying too much. Put in work — terrorize them, whatever comes with that.”
Essentially, putting in work is the price a gang member pays to be accepted, gaining the value of brotherhood that comes with it all, which is the primary appeal of gangs. But putting in work can often result in retaliation, as Ché learned. He had lost two close friends to gang violence during the summer of 1990.
Afterward, he was consumed with rage and started carrying a .22-caliber revolver, which made him feel untouchable. He committed a series of armed robberies and breaking and entering with his fellow Crips, who referred to him as BK (Blood Killer). Considering how dangerous the lifestyle is, some thirty years later Ché says he feels lucky to be alive.
“All of the stupid nights just doing stupid, stupid shit, every fucking night,” he says from his Augusta, Georgia, home. “Just senseless. Senseless, brother.” Despite the wild years of his early adulthood, Ché had the common sense to know that he was a dead man walking unless he renounced gang life. He did so before pleading guilty to nine felony charges of armed robbery.
Over the next four-plus years, Ché Avery served time at different facilities around the California penal system, at Chino, Richard J. Donovan, and Jamestown where he was tasked with fighting fires alongside other inmates. He soon learnt the harsh realities of prison life, he was robbed of $40 by a Mexican gang, in order to protect himself he sharpened shanks but was ratted out by his cellmate and spent some time in the hole.
But all these experiences caused him to grow as a person. In prison he learned carpentry and cabinet making, adding to the skills he accrued under his father and at Trade Tech, while also befriending members of former rival sets. When he was released from prison in March 1996, he promised to finish school, start his own business and work hard. He wanted to be a good person, and vowed never go back to the gangland lifestyle.
But during the past 57 months much had changed in his family. “When I went to jail, Lloyd was a goody-two-shoes,” he says. “By the time I got out, he already had a case.” Lloyd Avery had by that time multiple cases pending when his brother was released from prison, and he would soon add burglary and weapons possession charges to his burgeoning arrest record. He had firmly settled into the Jungle, a Bloods-affiliated neighbourhood in South Los Angeles, where he was said to have connections with the Black P-Stone set.
Established in the late 1960’s by OG T-Rogers, a former member of the BlackStone Rangers, the Black P-Stones consists of two sub-sets, the Jungles and the City. The “Jungles”, to whom Avery belonged, are located in the Crenshaw district of South Los Angeles, and their neighbourhood is the Baldwin Village apartment complex, behind the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, between the Crenshaw Blvd and La Brea Blvd.
The gang are known to be on good terms with the majority of the other Blood sets in the surrounding areas of South Los Angeles, especially the Fruit Town Brims and the Rollin 20’s Neighbourhood Bloods. They have waged territorial wars against other powerful gangs in South L.A., such as the Rollin 40 Crips, the 18th Street Gang, one of the largest Latino gangs in the city, and the Rollin 30’s Harlem Crips.
Surprisingly, Lloyd Avery had the respect an OG earns due to a murder he committed on film, but he was determined to earn his stripes the old fashioned way. He put in work, and the Bloods gangsters showered him with the attention he craved. He often wore red with Chuck Taylors and khakis and became as notorious as his on-screen character in Boyz.
Ché Avery says he once came across someone with Avery’s face tattooed on his forearm. Avery had himself inked, tattooing the letter “J” in Olde English font above his left eyebrow. A few weeks later, he filled in the rest, so that the word “JUNGLEZ” was clear for everyone to see. His transition was complete, he was no longer the actor who played the Blood who shot Ricky, but had become ‘The Blood Who Shot Ricky’.
His anger and frustration that had festered into criminal activity stemmed from the fact that he desperately wanted to be a star, but was coming to terms with the realization that it wasn’t going the way he wanted. Casting opportunities like Boyz N the Hood had come so easily that Avery believed every role would come so easily.
He rarely prepared for auditions, if he bothered showing up at all. “I auditioned him once,” Doran Reed says, “and if that’s how he was auditioning, he wasn’t going to get anything.” Avery’s music career had also stalled despite his numerous and influential industry connections. Despite appearing in a big blockbuster like Boyz, Avery’s subsequent acting work was erratic, and he wouldn’t appear in another film until three years later.
That gig was an uncredited role in the Wayan Brother’s 1996 crime comedy film Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The film was a parody of movies like Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice and Menace II Society, and in this small role Avery played “guy in the back seat”, in what would be his last acting role for the next four years. With his career flagging, Avery still managed to excel at ruining friendships.
Singleton retained a fondness for Avery, finding his practical jokes endearing. But Avery continued to antagonize him, even after the stunt he pulled at the Poetic Justice premiere. “He called John ‘a punk ass nigga,’” Norrington says. “It got to the point where John stopped taking Lloyd’s calls.” As his friends grew up and moved on, Lloyd became increasingly isolated.
Even his old roommate QDIII distanced himself from Lloyd Avery. “He would call my house at random and be like, ‘I’m the king of the streets. I’m the hardest,’” QDIII once told me. “I told him everything is all good, but I had to take a break.” By the beginning of 1999, as Avery was turning 30-years-of-age, he moved into an office building in Santa Barbara Plaza with a shared bathroom down the hall.
The Beginning of Lloyd Avery II's Demise
With his acting work all but dried up, he cashed small residual checks and washed cars for $5 a time. L.A. police suspected he was also selling crack. He emerged back on the scene in February 1999, starring in an uncredited role as “Man in Jail” in Eric Meza’s comedy film The Breaks. By March 1999, his brother Ché was a father of a two-year-old son, and had returned to school, having won a Trade Tech scholarship and was gifted $2,500 in tools.
His brother Zanjay and little sister Tikco had also graduated from college, but Lloyd stayed immersed in the culture of the streets and the gangster lifestyle. Lloyd Avery fled the Jungle in April 1999 after what was described as an altercation with members of the Nation of Islam. He cleaned out his apartment in the middle of the night and stayed at his grandmother’s house.
Not long after leaving his long-time apartment, he decided to share a Hollywood crash pad with four surfer bros he had just met. That arrangement ended when he maced his roommate’s mother. Lloyd Avery was out of control, and one time at a nightclub he also maced former MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown. His life was in free-fall. He would steal a bike or car to get to work, and was said to have packed a gun to a casting call.
A witness saw him wielding a gun during an argument on the Venice Beach boardwalk. He seemed violent one minute, then weepy and apologetic the next. He also started going to church, but would rarely make it inside. “He would get dressed, go, be there, but would leave prior to the lesson and walk around the grounds,” Carol Avery, his aunt, remembers. “I figured he was struggling and Satan was pulling at him to keep him from hearing the lesson.”
The Double Murder in the Jungle
By this time he was becoming ever more embroiled in L.A. gangster violence, and in 1999, he became involved in a real life gang-related incident when he participated in the murders of two drug dealers. Although he no longer lived in the Jungle, he still hung out with residents there, and on July 1, 1999, at around 4:00pm, Avery approached Annette Lewis and Percy Branch, who were sitting under a tree near Santa Barbara Plaza.
According to police reports, after a short argument, allegedly over a drug debt, Avery pulled out a .45 caliber pistol. He fired his weapon at Lewis before turning it on Branch, who was shot in the stomach. Lewis died later that day, while Branch passed away three weeks later due to complications from his gunshot wounds.
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Surprisingly, Avery didn’t go into hiding after the murders, and instead went on to film two movies while on the run. While staying at his grandmothers house, he received some unexpected good news from his agent at Privilege Talent and Models, that he had booked a movie role in New Mexico. 13 days after the murders of Lewis and Branch, Avery was on set for the filming on Lockdown, which started on July 14, 1999, in Cell Block 4 of the Penitentiary of New Mexico.
This location was the scene of one of the deadliest prison riots in United States history. It was known as the Old Main, and this section of the prison was closed down in 1998. But there were still relics of the violence, such as the ax marks from where snitches were decapitated. The atmosphere on set was tense. When filming wrapped for the day, the crew would often unwind at a local bar.
Avery refused to mix with the crew, preferring to remain in his hotel room. On the one rare occasion he attended, he ended up fighting with one of the lead actors De’Aundre Bonds. The scuffle was broken up by the tattoo artist on set, which led to Avery feuding with the hair and makeup department.
“He said he was going to find me and my family when we got back to L.A.,” says makeup department head Melanie Mills, “and that he was going to murder us.” Avery had already made himself a pariah on set, having scrapped with Gabriel Casseus following their fight scene, and threw a tantrum after filming the scene during which his character Nate was thrown into a freezer.
But possibly his biggest mistake was continuously antagonizing Percy Miller, known as Master P, one of the stars and producers of the film. “P’s guys would come to me and say, ‘Do you want us to fuck him up?’” says director John Luessenhop, who told them “‘No, please leave him alone.’” As a result, the producers cut some of Avery’s scenes, and he was soon to be thrown off set.
On the day Lloyd Avery was fired from the set of Lockdown, he was spotted by crew smoking a sherm stick on the back of a grip truck during his lunch break, while blasting music from a stolen boombox. When he was asked to return the radio, Avery stormed into the makeup room and lunged towards Melanie Mills.
Before he could reach her, he was intercepted by the tattoo artist, who punched him in the face and splattering blood everywhere. Avery was then chased off the set by Master P’s entourage, and run toward the new prison facility down the road. Dressed in full wardrobe as a prisoner, Avery scaled a tall barbed-wire fence.
At that moment, sirens began blaring and guns were drawn. Avery had unwittingly infiltrated a working prison. The film’s line producer, Eric Abrahamson, a former Navy SEAL demolition expert, had to plead with guards and expert snipers to stand down. Once subdued, Avery was ordered to leave the state of New Mexico.
Despite the humiliation of getting fired from Lockdown and practically being escorted out of state, Avery felt optimistic about his acting career upon returning to L.A. He started attending auditions and even wrote a movie script titled G in a Bottle. Christine Chapman, his agent at Privilege Talent and Models, the Beverly Hills firm that represented Avery described it as “like [Kazaam], that movie where Sha