LOS ANGELES – The weekend shooting death of a high school football star outside his home "may" be prosecuted as a hate crime, the mayor of Los Angeles said Tuesday.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended a candlelight vigil to remember Jamiel Andre Shaw, a 17-year-old student who was gunned down Sunday in what police have said was a random, unprovoked gang attack.
"We don't know right now the nature, though we understand it could be," Villaraigosa said.
Hundreds of friends, relatives and teachers of the slain student stood on the sidewalk in the Crenshaw area Tuesday where the teen was shot, just a few yards from his home. They spoke fondly of his athletic prowess and good sense of humor.
"He wouldn't do nothing to nobody, and they took him away for no reason," mourner Kristen Blanton told MyFOXLA.com. "He could have been successful."
Shaw, a standout running back at Los Angeles High School and the Southern League's most valuable player last season, had been recruited by universities including Stanford.
"A kid like that doesn't come around too often," Hardy Williams, the coach of the Los Angeles High School football team, told MyFOXLA.com.
Jamiel was an all-city first-team selection last season after he rushed for 1,052 yards, averaging more than 14 yards per carry, and scored 10 touchdowns. He also ran track.
His life ended Sunday night when police said two Hispanic gang members pulled up in a car and asked Shaw "Where you from?" — code for which gang did he belong to. Shaw was black.
Shaw did not respond, Los Angeles police Det. Frank Carrillo told MyFOXLA.com.
"They shot him anyway," Carrillo said.
Shaw's death comes amid an increase in gang violence in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, suspected Hispanic gang members shot a 6-year-old boy in the head after flashing gang signs. The child remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Villaraigosa, meeting with Police Chief William J. Bratton before the vigil, said that gang-related homicides were down despite the recent violence, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"What is particularly traumatic is that all these people were just innocent," Villaraigosa said at the press conference. "We have to stand up and work together to begin to take on this issue of violence in this city. We still haven't done a good enough job."
Shaw's mother, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, was on her way home from Iraq, where she had been serving her second tour since August 2007 with the Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, the Army told FOXNews.com.
"We were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Sgt. Shaw's son, Jamiel," Army Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb said in an e-mail. "Our Army has great soldiers who stand ready to support and defend our nation and stand side-by-side with their families to support each other in time of need.
"When tragedy strikes one family, it reaches the entire Army family," she said. "Sgt. Shaw and her family are in our thoughts during this most difficult time."
Shaw's father appealed Tuesday for the public's help in identifying the gunmen. He also said he didn't believe his son's killing was a hate crime.
"I don't see it as black and brown," the elder Shaw told mourners. "I see it as gang problem."
A $50,000 reward has been offered for tips leading to the arrest of Shaw's killers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.