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Husband of Longtime LA Activist Killed in Hit-and-Run Accident

Despite his being a beloved figure in South LA’s Watts neighborhood, Bruce Phillips’ hit-and-run death has received no press coverage. His widow, Helen Jones, wants answers. 

Candles spelling out Bruce on the sidewalk.
Mourners spell out Bruce Phillips’ name at a vigil in front of a family member’s home. (Photo credit: Wilder Rush)

Updated 10/26/2022 at 8:56 PM: Knock LA made contact with the manager of EZ 2 Rent a Car. She said that the police had not reached out regarding the hit-and-run and the phone call from this reporter was the first she was hearing of it. The manager stated that the individual who rented the Toyota called her on Tuesday to report that they parked the car Saturday night and found it missing Sunday morning. EZ 2 Rent a Car located the vehicle and found the driver’s side was totaled. The manager is attempting to get in touch with authorities to inquire about the accident. 

On Sunday evening, a hit-and-run driver killed Bruce Phillips while he was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle near Ted Watkins Park. 

Phillips was married to Helen Jones, a longtime activist whose son, John Horton, died in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in 2009. While law enforcement initially attributed Horton’s death to suicide, Horton’s medical report showed signs of severe physical trauma, prompting Jones to file a wrongful death lawsuit in 2015. The case was settled in 2016, and Jones received $2 million from Los Angeles County. 

Phillips was driving down Century Boulevard near Success Avenue when a white pickup truck did an illegal turn. This prompted Phillips to swerve to avoid impact. Phillips either fell or jumped off his motorcycle and was hit by an oncoming silver Toyota. Drivers in a nearby vehicle chased down the Toyota to capture its license plate number. Records show the Toyota belongs to the rental company EZ 2 Rent a Car

Regarding her late husband, Jones says, “Bruce was a mentor in this community, in our community. Everybody loved him because he was a giver.”

Phillips was born in Louisiana, but moved to the Watts neighborhood in South Los Angeles when he was five years old.  

“He truly loved Watts,” Jones says. “He was in a car club and he was also in a motorcycle club. What they would do is, every three weeks they would go to a different business that was struggling, and go help that business. Like, 30 motorcycles at one time. They’d ask people, ‘What business do you know that’s struggling?’ and they’d go make sure that business got 30 people coming in there.”

Tonight, there was a vigil in Phillips’ honor outside a family member’s home. Many loved ones came to pay their respects and share memories. 

A man at a candlelight vigil holding an unlit candle in front of lit candles on the sidewalk in front of a picket fence.
Mourners crowded the streets to pay their respects. (Photo credit: Wilder Rush)

Matthew Riley, Phillips’ cousin, called Phillips one of the most important mentors in his life. 

“He did the little things that no one would notice,” Riley says, “and he never really garnered the spotlight or anything like that. It was just really from the heart. They say the measure of a man is what they do when no one is looking. Those were the types of things he did. That’s why you’ll see such an outpouring from the community.”

“Bruce embraced everybody,” says Jacqueline Arrington, a longtime friend of Jones. “He was a young man with an old man’s soul.” 

LaMeika Horton, whose mother was Phillips’ first cousin, says, “Bruce was always the protector of the women in the family. And I had a horrible, horrible situation where I was a victim of domestic violence, and I remember talking to him on the phone after the event for about an hour, and he was just telling me things that I should look out for when dealing with someone that I’m dating. What really stood out was when he said, ‘Meika, we love you. If you date someone, bring him around the family, so the family can see who he is and we can kind of feel him.’ That made me feel really loved and protected. That’s one of the things I’m going to miss now that he’s gone.” 

“When I say he was loved in the community, he was like an angel in the community,” Jones says. “They loved him. They still love him.” 

Despite Phillips’ status in the community, the accident has yet to receive press attention. 

“Nobody talked about it. It wasn’t even on the news,” Jones says. “Nobody covered this. It was just sad to everybody.”

Jones was initially unable to get information on the accident from California Highway Patrol. A representative told her she could not provide Jones with information, as she was not listed on her late husband’s motorcycle registration. She intends to visit an office in person with an attorney present and bring in the photos of the Toyota’s license plate and the vehicle’s registration.  

“I just want these people brought to justice, because nobody tried to help,” Jones says. “None of the people who caused the accident and the people who ran him over, nobody tried to help him.”

Knock LA attempted to reach out to both California Highway Patrol and the rental car agency but could not get through to relevant representatives. We will continue to reach out in the coming days. If anyone has any information about the accident, please reach out to Knock LA. This is an ongoing story, and we will continue to update you as new information comes in.