As the sun set on Glenoaks Boulevard and Andover Drive, candlelight warded off the dark and illuminated the photographs of the three people.
Many of those who gathered at the memorial wanted to know exactly what happened shortly before midnight on Tuesday. That was when, according to the Burbank Police Department, one or both of two vehicles that had been speeding “for several blocks” north on Glenoaks in an apparent street race crashed into a silver Volkswagen that had been traveling south on the boulevard and tried to turn left onto Andover.
The impact ejected three people from the Volkswagen. First responders found that they were not breathing, said police, and the victims were all pronounced dead at the scene. A fourth occupant of the vehicle, a woman, was severely injured and taken to a trauma center, police added. Sgt. Emil Brimway said Thursday that she remained in stable condition.
The driver of one of the other vehicles was also severely injured and was taken to a trauma center, the BPD said. He, too, was in stable condition, according to Brimway.
Police said their investigation was continuing and findings would be given to the District Attorney’s Office. No arrests were made as of the Leader’s press deadline on Friday.
Gathering at the street corner memorial on Thursday — a day after the display appeared —neighborhood residents who had heard or seen the collision pointed to the street where the Volkswagen had been torn apart and ignited. Some witnesses had even tried to help the crash victims.
For several of the friends and family members of the three who died on Tuesday, the information was welcome. As horrific as the crash was, some said, they wanted to know everything they could about the last moments of the three killed: Cerain Anthony Raekwon Baker, 21, of Pasadena; Burbank resident Jaiden Kishon Johnson, 20; and Natalee Asal Moghaddam, 19, of Calabasas.
As those at the memorial desperately tried to piece together the story of what happened that night, others wept for the dead, laughed as they shared memories of them and discussed ways to further honor them. Some remained silent.
Karla Mendez, Johnson’s stepmother, said she wanted people to know that Johnson — who had moved from Orlando, Florida, to Burbank just two years ago to advance his music career — was a good person. He loved Los Angeles, Mendez said, and was close friends with Baker, with whom he produced music.
“He never gave us a problem. He was very smart,” she said. “As soon as he moved here, he made friends. He was thriving in what he loved to do. He actually found his purpose.”
Mendez said Johnson’s goal was to reach 1,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel by the time he turned 21 — which would have been on Aug. 28. He had planned to go to Las Vegas with his friends. As of this week, Johnson had more than 800 subscribers on his YouTube account, MiaJai. His most recent beat was uploaded on the day of his death.
Johnson’s aunt also launched a GoFundMe to help pay for a celebration-of-life ceremony. The page says the money will also “be used to pursue justice through the legal processes for Jaiden.” About a day after it began, the fundraiser exceeded its $20,000 goal.
Baker, whom Mendez said her stepson met while working at Vons, played football at Burroughs High School, where he was homecoming king, according to the school paper, and graduated in 2018. Media reports said Baker was the son of comedian Tony Baker.
“It feels like it’s not real,” Tony Baker told KNBC Channel 4. “We get waves of grief. We sob uncontrollably. Then it’s back to regular conversation.”
News of the three deaths seemed particularly affecting to local parents. At a Burbank Unified School District meeting Thursday evening, Board of Education President Steve Frintner said he had immediately called his daughter after hearing about the crash. He was relieved to hear his child wasn’t hurt. Then he mourned for those whose were.
“This is a continuing problem, and we don’t have a solution for it here,” Frintner said. “We have done a lot of advocacy on traffic safety around our schools. We will continue to.”
As those at the street corner vigil grieved, laughed, shared information and remembered those they had lost, the memorial, glowing in candlelight, seemed to draw in others. One jogger made the sign of the cross while making her way through the vigil. Some whose loved ones had died years before commiserated with the families over their losses.
And many who drove past the memorial on Glenoaks Boulevard slowed as they expressed condolences.
— Leader staff writer Oscar Areliz contributed to this report