Large crowd expected at Tookie's funeral

Few condemned inmates have generated as much public support as Stanley Tookie Williams, and so much post-execution attention. The final send-off for the former gang leader executed last week promises to be no different.

A funeral normally reserved for a dignitary or religious leader was scheduled for today, almost exactly a week after Williams was executed by lethal injection for murdering four people during a pair of 1979 robberies.

Among those expected to attend the funeral in Los Angeles were the US civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who visited Williams shortly before his death; the leader of the black Muslim organisation Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan and hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg.

The service was to include a five-minute video tribute by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and speeches by motivational guru Tony Robbins and actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Williams in the TV movie Redemption: The Stanley Tookie Williams Story.

Williams, who in the 1970s co-founded the Crips gang not far from the church hosting his funeral, later began a career on Death Row writing children’s books warning against the gang life.

Those efforts attracted numerous supporters who lobbied frantically for clemency, arguing Williams had redeemed himself. He became become a symbol for those opposed to the death penalty.

“If they think they succeeded by killing him in getting people to forget about him, they have done just the opposite,” Barbara Becnel, who collaborated with Williams on his books, said last week after his execution.

The service will be held at Bethel AME Church Los Angeles, which holds 1,500 people. An expected overflow crowd will be able to view the funeral on a large video screen outside, Becnel said. The service also will be broadcast on the internet.

In accordance with his will, Williams will not be buried. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered over South Africa in January, Becnel said.

Williams was condemned in 1981 for using a sawn-off shot gun to kill 7-11 clerk Albert Owens, 26, in Whittier. Weeks later, he killed Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and the couple’s daughter Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at the Los Angeles motel they owned.

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