For the past seven weeks, Donna Martin has kept vigil at the bedside of her son, Christopher Charles Martin.
Some days Christopher, 27, is able to move his limbs and his eyes, and Martin believes he is trying to comfort her when he hears her cry.
“Christopher has always been a protector,” said Martin. “He is very protective of me, and all of his family members.”
An entrepreneur and musician who performs under the name Donn Sway, Christopher founded a mentoring business to help boys who want to play college football assemble their college application materials. He also helped take care of his grandmother “in her final stages of dementia,” and always stood up for his younger brother Tyler, who suffers from schizophrenia, Martin recalled.
On April 15, Christopher’s protectiveness nearly cost him his life after he was shot in the head while trying to defend friends during a “follow-home” robbery — a trend that has terrorized Angelenos since last year.
Distinguished by their coordination and brutality, the attacks target people leaving upscale restaurants, hotels or posh clubs. The perpetrators often send “spotters” — individuals who look for well-dressed people with expensive jewelry, luxury cars or Rolex watches — to alert other gang members who entrap the victims.
“In many cases, the victims are not even having a chance to comply [and hand over their valuables],” Captain Jonathan Tippet, head of the LAPD’s Follow-Home Robbery Task Force, told The Post. “They are being tackled, punched, hit and pistol-whipped.”
One of the suspects shot Martin in the head after he tried to stop the robbers, according to Detective Daryn Dupree of the LAPD Robbery Homicide Special Section. “When we got the call that night, we thought Christopher was not going to make it,” said Dupree, noting that the young man’s survival has surpassed medical expectations.
A star athlete who played college football on full scholarship for UC Davis, Martin came from San Diego to LA April 15 to celebrate the birthday of a former UC Davis football player whom he had mentored.
“Coming from San Diego, Christopher may not have realized what the temperature is here,” said Dupree, referring to the crime wave.
In 2021 the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division noticed a surge of robberies involving multiple armed suspects coordinating to ambush victims, according to Tippet. He said that up to 18 gangs from South LA are involved.
“In my 34 years with the LAPD I have never seen this type of criminal behavior,” said Tippet, “with people in large groups … up to five carloads of individuals, and most of them appear to be armed, coordinating amongst themselves to target people.”
There have been 254 “follow-home” attacks since January 2021, Tippet said, with 165 occurring in 2021 — 111 of them in the final four months of last year and 89 this year to date.
Alarmed by the trend, Tippet established the Follow- Home Robbery Task Force in late November 2021