Lloyd Avery II
The Boyz n the Hood Actor
Lloyd Avery II
"I like to call it the Tupac Syndrome"
Few knew his name, but many would remember Lloyd Avery II’s 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.
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.
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.
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 thing 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?”
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 and the Black P Stones 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.
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.
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 Shaq was a genie.”
“This kid finds a bottle and out comes this ex-gang member who changed his ways. It was actually kind of good,” she says. Avery befriended and eventually moved in with Chapman’s son, an aspiring model named Sean Spraker.
After a night of partying, Avery crashed at the studio apartment of Spraker’s childhood friend, Jeremy McLaughlin, another Privileged client. For the next three months or so, he didn’t leave. “We couldn’t really do much about it,” Spraker says. “No one wanted to confront him.” The struggling actor and rapper had seemed personally and professionally lost since his debut in Boyz.
Then things appeared to brighten up, albeit momentarily. Avery landed what was to be his most influential role to date, as the gangster G-Ride in the 2001 Independent low-budget indie film Shot, which documented life on the dangerous streets of South Central LA. Roger Roth, the film’s writer and director, says he was impressed by Avery’s audition, who had underplayed his emotions during the scene he read.
Roth had found the actor who would be his G-Ride. In the movie G-Ride allows a White photographer named Robert, played by Brandon Karrer, essentially a stand-in for Roth, to ride with his gang and document life in the hood. Avery would be the ideal method actor for the role. He asked Roth to address him as G-Ride and kept his prop gun tucked into his waistband.
The role came naturally to Avery, and it showed in his performance. “He’s one of the best actors I ever worked with,” Roth says. “He could nail every line. He could make you believe it. He could make you feel it.” For the first time since he starred in Boyz, Avery became completely invested in a project.
He demanded the final product be real and authentic, and would protest when a line of dialogue or a a costume felt anything less than the real McCoy. In an effort to pander to him, Roth went along with his decision. Avery would also serve as a technical adviser on the film, working with director Roger Roth, and perhaps offering up his own experience of gang related life in the Jungle.
To get it right, he pestered Avery with questions about the hood and even his own past. “I asked him if he was ever involved in killing. He just gave a smirk,” says Roth. “I even thought it was kind of cool. It didn’t register, the heaviness of having to kill someone.” Before long, the relationship between star and director came to mirror that of G-Ride and Robert.
Avery started to bully and intimidate Roth. On several occasions, he promised he would kill him. “I’m going to wait until your ass motherfucking thinks that I motherfucking forgot about it, motherfucker,” Avery would tell Roth. As for how he planned to kill him, Roth says, “I don’t repeat the threat. I don’t even tell the people closest to me. This way, I just know it died with him.”
Reflecting on the time he spent with Avery, Roth has few words to say. He remembers sitting in his car, crying, paralyzed with fear, or the nights he spent sleeping in his secret editing suite. “Every hair on my arm is standing, and my entire face is numb,” he says. “I feel like he’s here right now. I’ve never felt that way before… I believe in the afterlife, so that’s possible.”
“When I think back on Lloyd, I think it’s one of the greatest missed opportunities,” Roth says. “Had he been able to control himself and not commit a double murder, there is no doubt he would have been a big success.” But Lloyd Avery had much on his mind, and the past was catching up with this actor turned gangster turned acting gangster, who all that time had been harbouring his dark secret.
“People I ran into were always like, ‘What’s going on with Lloyd? It seems like he’s self-destructing,’” says his younger brother, Ché Avery. The double murder was still being investigated by L.A. detectives, and when the wanted posters went up in the fall of 1999, Avery was couch-surfing with friends and family.
Ché remembers the last night he spent with his brother as a free man. The two were sitting in the two-car garage of their grandmother’s house on Crescent Heights Boulevard near Beverly Hills. As they sat, talked and smoked hits from a bong, Ché recalled his older brother saying, “I’ve had a good life” as they both continued to smoke weed. “You want to hear some hear something scary?”, Lloyd asked him, but his brother knew that Los Angeles detectives had been searching for his brother to speak with him.
It seemed like he wanted to get something off his chest but Ché was worried about what he might say. “I don’t want to hear that shit”, Ché muttered, and pulled out a pocketknife, brandishing it in the air, indicating he wanted to cut the conversation short. Nothing more was said that evening, and Lloyd spent the night sleeping on the floor in his grandmothers bedroom.
The LAPD were aware of exactly where Lloyd was hiding out, and the next morning they moved to make an arrest. Ché said he remembered the helicopters that morning were louder than usual, and there was lots of traffic outside his grandmother’s house. Lloyd was in the kitchen with his bike and before he left through the back door, he gave his brother one last hug, but nothing more was said about the previous night.
He made his way up Crescent Heights Boulevard, making a U-turn where he pulled alongside the driver’s side door of police cruiser. He then brazenly leaned forward and asked the officer, “What’s up?”, as he released his grip on the handlebars of his aluminium Mongoose.
Just then the officer opened his door and Lloyd stumbled momentarily before recovering quickly, speeding West in an attempt to elude the pursuing police vehicle. He soon collided with another police car and was placed under arrest for the double murders.
“Instead of just being a Hollywood-like studio gangster, he was living it” said Ché. “My brother turned into a for-real for-real gangster,” he added. It appeared Lloyd Avery never got over playing Knucklehead #2 and it really was a case of art imitating life, with him living the same type of lifestyle as his gun wielding character in Singleton’s film.
The date of Avery’s arrest was December 8, 1999. He had been apprehended following a tip from Sean Spraker, the roommates had previously had a falling out after Avery maced Spraker’s mother, Christine Chapman, his own agent, during an argument at the Privileged offices. Avery considered his arrest to be fate.
By that time in his life he had lost his way, and he knew that prison offered him a chance to turn his life around, as it once did for his brother Ché. While Avery was awaiting trial, he was incarcerated at the North County Correctional Facility and there he found God and salvation in Chaplain Dennis Clark’s congregation.
Clark, the senior chaplain at the county jail, first noticed Avery sitting in the front row during bible study. Soon he was speaking often with Clark in the prison Chaplain office about what he was reading in the bible. Clark says that whenever Avery committed himself to something, he went all in, and religion was no different. “His faith was as real as any man’s faith I’ve ever known”.
After two years at the jail he went to trial in December 2000. During each morning in court, Avery carried his Bible, with highlighted passages and scribbles he had made in the margin. From the start of the prosecution’s opening statement it appeared that a different Lloyd Avery was being judged, not the devout Christian that emerged in jail whom other inmates had nicknamed Baby Jesus.
The Lloyd Avery being tried was ‘The Blood Who Shot Ricky’. “What is this case about?” deputy district attorney Hoon Chun asked the jury. “You’ve heard the phrase art imitating life. Well, this is a case about life imitating, and even exceeding, art.” Despite the fact that the prosecution had evidence from three eye-witnesses, there appeared to be credibility issues, including the star witness who had asked for money in exchange for testimony.
While another eyewitness claimed that the shooter was 5’7” and dark-skinned, Branch, the victim who died three weeks after the shooting, adamantly told police that Avery wasn’t the shooter. The murder weapon was never recovered, and police accidentally destroyed shell casings from two shootings involving Avery from the spring of 1999, a shootout at the Islamic Center and a drive-by on Hillcrest Avenue, both of which alleged to have been a match to the ballistics from the murders.
“It’s an embarrassment, certainly,” Judge Robert J. Perry said from the bench. “It is shoddy police work, unquestionably.” Lloyd Avery took the stand in his own defence, claiming he was “Somewhere in Hollywood,” at the time of the murder, and then clashed with deputy district attorney Chun who claimed that such a weak alibi offered little to prove his whereabouts. At the conclusion of the proceedings, Avery was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Death at Pelican Bay State Prison
He arrived at Pelican Bay State Prison in March 2001. During his time there, Lloyd Avery kept out of trouble and was mostly preoccupied with spreading God’s word to his fellow inmates, something that would ultimately cause his death. In August 2005, Avery was paired up in a double cell with another inmate.
This cellmate was Kevin Roby, an Air Force Academy dropout and paranoid schizophrenic serving a life sentence for the horrific rape and murder of his sister, in January 1987. During his time in prison, Roby had found a different faith to Avery, that of Satanism.
The devout Avery believed that divine providence had offered him an opportunity in this living arrangement. “I know God has him around me for a reason,” he wrote to Chaplain Clark, in a letter dated August 29, 2005. “He knows very well that I am a devout Christian, and I pray for him to the Lord every day that he gives his life to God.”
What happened next is mostly known from Kevin Roby‘s own account, where he claims that Avery had apparently tried to convert him, albeit unsuccessfully and was warned by Roby to stop preaching about God. On the evening of Sunday, September 4, 2005, these spiritual disputes between Avery and Roby turned violent.
“He was pushing his agenda to convert me to Christianity, which led to us fighting,” Roby would later explain. This violent altercation ended with Roby choking Avery unconscious, causing him to bleed into his lungs. He then placed Avery’s body in bed under the covers, so an not to alert the guards to his death.
Over the next day and a half, correctional officers made 11 counts of the inmates, which including a standing count at 4:30pm on the Monday. During each of these counts, Avery was tallied. With his cellmate dead, Roby ate double rations and even wrote a flirtatious letter to one of Avery’s pen pals.
In his later statement to prison authorities, Roby then tied a string around Avery’s arm and tugged his limbs like a marionette in order fool the correctional officers into believing he was still alive. Shortly before the Tuesday noon count, Roby removed the body from the bunk and positioned it onto a pentagram that he had drawn on the cell block floor.
As part of the ceremony he undertook, Kevin Roby painted the cell walls with Avery’s blood, as part of a Satanic ritual intended as a warning to God. Years later Roby said, “He is next on the agenda once I accomplish what I want to accomplish in this realm.” It took correctional officers approximately 38 hours to find the body of Lloyd Avery.
When officers entered their cell, Roby was handcuffed and Avery’s body was transferred to the infirmary, and there administered CPR despite the fact that he was already decomposing. He was pronounced dead at 12:10pm. Avery’s family, including his brother Che and mother Linda doubted the official version of the circumstances surrounding Lloyd’s death.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) listed the cause of death as aspiration of blood, with blunt force trauma as a contributing factor. The Avery family conducted a private autopsy, which stated the cause of death as blunt force trauma complicated by aspiration of blood. It also made mention of the injury to Avery’s skull, describing the 1.5-inch abrasion on his temple, as “suggestive of either a blow due to a flat surface such as a carpenter’s hammer or impact on a similar type surface.”
The mention of a carpenter’s hammer led to some, including the Avery family, to believe that it was possible Roby hadn’t act alone. But, the blunt force trauma described from such a weapon is similar to the type of wounds caused by Avery’s head being banged on the stainless-steel sink in their cell.
A later CDCR investigation found no evidence that correctional officers played any part in the death of Lloyd Avery II. Hoping that a trial would provide them with answers as to the circumstances of the death of their loved one, the family urged local authorities to file charges against Roby. The Del Notre County district attorney refused, citing that fact that Roby had both confessed to the crimes, and was not eligible for the death penalty.
The family appealed to the State Attorney General, who were inclined to agree with the local DA’s decision. They considered filing a wrongful death lawsuit, but the civil rights movement NAACP as well as the law firm of Johnnie Cochran decided against representing the Avery family.
Around this time, the CDCR conducted two investigations under the supervision of the California Inspector General Office’s Bureau of Independent Review, one into the circumstances of Avery’s death, and the other on the conduct of the correctional officers.
This report, released in early 2007, found that the correctional officers failed to follow basic procedures and guidelines, such as removing Avery’s body before photographing the crime scene, and most importantly, for failing to notice he had been dead in his cell for 38 hours before his discovery.
Following an appeal, five of the officers involved were found guilty of misconduct, and received disciplinary action ranging from a 5% pay cut for 45 days to a 10% pay cut for a six month period. When Linda Avery, mother of Lloyd, heard about the officer’s punishment, she said “So they just got a little tap on the hand. Crazy.”
When contacted in November 2020, the correctional officer who found Avery’s body refused to comment, saying “I have nothing to say about it, man. I’m retired. It’s no longer a part of my life.” Another correctional officer who had knowledge of the incident, and who asked to remain anonymous, said that missed counts are not uncommon.
“These [prisoners] are assholes,” he said in 2007. “These aren’t nice people. So you’re trying to get your count done, and there is one person who refuses to stand. Are you going to count him?,” he asks. “We like a quiet day. We cherish a quiet day. I know all these officers involved in this case. They didn’t do this on purpose. Was it lazy? Sure”
“Do they have absolute regret? Yes. To me, if there is any mystery here, it’s why was Roby taken from a single-cell status to being in a double? Who cleared it? Prison officials don’t clear it. That’s management.” That same year, 2007, Pelican Bay administration officials declined to answer questions concerning the matter, citing “third party confidentiality and other individual privacy concerns.”
Kevin Roby received another life sentence, and remains at Pelican Bay prison, where he continues to sign his letters “Satannic Christ”, believing himself, in his own words to be the prophesized killer of God, and the rightful ruler of this Universe. In letters, he has described how “it was necessary to perform two rituals,” over the body of Lloyd Avery in order to fulfil some Satanic prophecy. He claims he is not a devil worshipper, but insists he is the “Christ of Darkness.”
Many of the questions surrounding Lloyd Avery’s death have never been answered. Avery’s family still cannot understand how he landed in prison in the first place. “No one could put their finger on it,” says Doran Reed, one of Avery’s closest friends. “People that knew Lloyd were like, ‘What the fuck? How did Lloyd turn into a gangster?’”
His brother Ché has kept some of Lloyd’s belongings in his garage, such as the BMX bike he was riding the morning of his arrest, as well as the Bible he studied in prison. He says it was his big brother who brought him closer to God, closer to believing in Jesus. He remembers his brother fondly, and even named his youngest son Lloyd.
“Looks just like him, too,” Ché says. “It’s a good name. I didn’t want it to get lost. Wanted to hand it down.” In the 15 years since his murder, Avery has become a hood legend and the story of his life and death have become something akin to movie lore. The question of how Lloyd Avery turned into a gangster has never been adequately answered.
Ché Avery likens his brother’s descent into gang-life to that of Tupac Shakur, “I like to call it the Tupac Syndrome”, he says, “He (Lloyd) felt like he had something to prove when he really didn’t. Even if you have money and fame, you will sacrifice all of that just to have respect from a bunch of thugs.” The aspiring actor turned gangbanger had chosen to live a violent life and ended up dying a particularly violent death.