The 23-year-old Venice man shot and killed by an unidentified gunman was remembered Tuesday for his singing and dancing talent, devotion to preaching and work to keep youths on the right track.
Oscar Duncan, a 2006 graduate of Venice High School, was shot and killed about 10:30 p.m. Monday night in the 600 block of Santa Clara Avenue after he and his girlfriend were confronted by four men in a white, mid-sized sedan, police said. Words were exchanged and Duncan apparently was defending his girlfriend when someone inside the vehicle fired one round and struck Duncan in the head, said Sgt. Craig Brown of the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division.
"The victim had no gang affiliation whatsoever," Brown said.
Duncan attended Mark Twain Middle School before moving onto Venice High School where he earned good grades and played on the school's football team, said his cousin, Jumond Norman.
A growing memorial tribute was growing on the sidewalk Tuesday outside the home where Duncan lived with his mother as stunned friends and family were offered condolences.
"So many people have come by the house because they knew he was 'that' kid," Norman said.
Duncan was a youth pastor at a church in Compton and mentor at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, which he belonged to growing up, Norman said. In 2006, he was named the Venice club's Youth of the Year and in May he received the National Service to Youth Award for his "unusually devoted service" for helping youths for the past five years.
"He was like a breath of fresh air," Norman said. "He grew up with a lot of negativity around him and disassociated himself with it and encouraged others to do the same."
Duncan was constantly upbeat and was the type of person who would go out of his way to cheer someone up if they were down, Norman said. Duncan often talked to youths about avoiding gangs, checked in on elderly people in the neighborhood and could usually be found either at church or at the Venice Boys & Girls Club.
Erikk Aldridge, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, said that Duncan had been part of the club since age 6 and was hired after receiving the club's top honor.
"We hired him in May 2006 and this past May he received his five-year service pin," Aldridge said. "That's a pretty big milestone, being only 23 and devoting five years to youth development."
Duncan in 2006 helped start a special audio engineering program with Venice music producer Scott Litt, who produced six albums by R.E.M., at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, Aldridge said. Duncan recruited students from elementary school through high school and taught them how to run a music board and record their songs and poetry. In addition, he was the club's teen services coordinator, where he acted as a junior staff career counselor and a mentor, Aldridge said.
"Without question, he was one of the most influential staff members here at the club," Aldridge said.
Duncan also was a youth pastor at Greater Zion Church Family in Compton.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he would adjourn an upcoming City Council meeting in Duncan's memory and would work with police to see if a reward is necessary. Anyone with information on the shooting should call homicide detectives at 213-382-9470, or after business hours at 877-527-3247.
Duncan's older brother, Curtis Nettles, was a star football player at Culver City High School who earned a scholarship to play at Washington State University and set an example for his younger sibling, Norman said.
Duncan was known as "Choir Boy" and he performed gospel-inspired hip-hop and also was a dancer.
"He was a real special person," Norman said.
Angelo Gasca, the longtime head coach of the Venice High School football team, said that Duncan was one of the best kids he's ever known.
"He's one of my favorite players at Venice High School, and I went to Venice High School," said Gasca, who graduated from the school in 1978. "I would have loved to have him as a teammate. I feel blessed that I was his coach and got to know him."
Duncan often would sing a song on the bus after games, making up a rhyme about a player that would be spot on and funny, Gasca said. Gasca used to tell the other coaches to ride back on the bus because Duncan was so funny.
"If you knew him, the three things he emphasized were God, music and Venice and, I think in that order, those were the important things in his life when I knew him," Gasca said. "I knew it meant a lot to him to be part of our program and to play football at Venice High School and it meant so much to me to have him do it."
Gasca said that Duncan earned good grades, stayed out of trouble and was well liked by his teammates, his classmates and teachers.
"We have to find a way to make the streets and our city, and I guess the whole world, a safer place for our kids," Gasca said. "If this can happen to someone like Oscar who did everything right, it can happen to any of us, and that's not a very good thought to be thinking."
(Editor's Note: Updated at 11:15 p.m. to correct name of the church where Duncan was a youth pastor to Greater Zion Church Family.)