UPDATE NO. 4, MARCH 29, 6 A.M.: In three days, 174 contributors pledged $20,040 to help the family of Fahness Lutalo, doubling the GoFundMe.com goal of $10,000. The pitch makes giving hard to resist:
The world lost one of the good ones yesterday. We lost our friend, coach, mentor, father, son and humble human being to senseless violence. He was an absolute inspiration to everyone that met him. Our hearts ache to think that Fahness will no longer be there to help the kids he mentors, make us laugh like he always would and let his light shine so bright that we felt the need to do the same. It is such a tragic loss.
Fahness was an amazing man. He had so much fight in him and an unparalleled zest for life. He spoke wisdom to anyone who was prepared to listen. He gave all of his time to anyone who was prepared to put in the effort and hard work. He constantly sharpened his tools, the mind and body. He never stopped, working around the clock to make his dreams a reality. He will forever live in our hearts.
Please pray for Fahness and his family. They are understandably shocked and devastated. I know they will appreciate any amount of money you can donate to help with the funeral expense and his 3 children.
Here, Lutalo demonstrates Zulu Kai Combat Jujitsu in a video posted in December:
The OC Boxing and MMA Academy’s supposedly confessed killer, 53-year-old Kirk Vernell Price, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday on felony murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, and three prior strike convictions for robbery with the use of a firearm in 1983 in Orange County. If convicted, Price faces a maximum sentence of 100 years to life in state prison, according to the district attorney’s office.
Price reportedly met Lutalo nearly a decade ago through the Orange County martial arts scene, they became friends and later, Price became jealous of Lutalo, according to his friend and former roommate Andrew DeLeon.
“Kirk knew him from the days when he had nothing,” DeLeon told the Orange County Register. “Both came from the city and the same walk of life. To see Fahness succeed and Kirk fail, that’s what led Kirk to murder Fahness. I wish there was a deeper story than jealousy.”
The two had not talked for almost a year until last week, when Price apologized to Lutalo, and in return Lutalo accepted the apology. But on Wednesday, Price went into the Tustin gym while Lutalo was coaching a student and threatened to kill Lutalo, apparently upset that Lutalo 10 years ago dated a woman Price was no seeing, DeLeon said.
According to prosecutor Scott Simmons, Price asked Lutalo a question, got an answer, fatally shot his former friend and then fled the scene. Cops are still looking for Price’s black Chevrolet Spark.
Published on Dec 5, 2015
UPDATE NO. 3, MARCH 25, 3:01 P.M.: While police report they are still sorting out the motive for the murder of Fahness Lutalo, workers at OC Boxing & MMA Academy are saying it was the culmination of a long dispute between their boss and a former student.
Lutalo and Kirk Price had a parting of ways that led the gym owner to throw the student out of a facility at a different location, and when Price showed up at the Tustin academy over the weekend, he was told to leave again, gym workers told City News Service.
Jerry Wilson, Lutalo’s father, told reporters outside the gym today that his son “exceeded any expectations or dreams or hopes that I could ever have for him.”
“He was absolutely my hero, my man, my boy. This (gym) was his dream. This was his dream and he made it happen. And he paid the price for it. I mean, he worked, he sacrificed, he did everything he needed to do to get here, and he finally got here.”
As for the man suspected of ending that dream, Price may have been apprehended near Orange County Jail—the facility now holding him—because he was trying to turn himself in, Tustin Police Lt. Bob Wright said.
UPDATE NO. 2, MARCH 25, 9:46 A.M.: A 53-year-old parolee—”with an extensive criminal history including robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and parole violations”—has been arrested for the murder of Fahness Lutalo, according to Tustin Police Lt. Bob Wright.
It is believed Kirk Vernell Price walked into OC Boxing & MMA Academy at 12:12 p.m. Thursday and shot Lutalo multiple times with a firearm, Wright said.
“Detectives identified the suspect as Kirk Vernell Price and began a manhunt to locate him,” the police spokesman said.
“At approximately 1:05 a.m., the Tustin Police [Department] was contacted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department advising they had contact with Price near the Orange County Jail.”
Police took Price into custody and booked him into Orange County Jail for suspected murder, Wright said. The suspect was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Wright says homicide detectives are still trying to determine a motive as well as find the murder weapon and Price’s vehicle: a black, 2013 Chevrolet Spark with tinted windows, license 7BMS565.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Lomeli at 714.573.3250.
UPDATE NO. 1, MARCH 25, 8:42 A.M.: The county coroner this morning identified the dead man as Fahness Lutalo, the owner and founder of OC Boxing & MMA Academy.
Besides being a master to his students, the 44-year-old Tustin resident was an actor, recording artist and reality show contestant.
He died instantly, based on the coroner’s times of the shooting and death: 12:12 p.m. Thursday.
“I was and still am devastated by the news,” said Fountain Valley’s Abram Alvarado of the slaying of Lutalo, who he referred to as his boxing coach and best friend.
“I am still shocked and hurt to even know this happened,” the Fountain Valley resident continued. “My best friend dead! Knew him for 12 years and I was his first student. So hard to accept this.”
Online reviews of OC Boxing & MMA Academy indicate that some were unfamiliar with terms and methods Lutalo employed, but he nonetheless received glowing recommendations like this one from a Ray T. of Hesperia:
“Fahness is the best coach. He really knows his boxing and is pretty much family. The people here are amazing especially the people on the fight team. I’ve had the blessed opportunity to have found this gym because if it wasn’t for Fahness, I wouldn’t have a dream as big as I do right now. I love everybody at this gym because pretty much everybody is like family and Fahness is one you can’t forget. I’ve learned the utmost discipline and work ethic from this place alone I feel I’ve gotten to place I wouldn’t have without Fahness. I want to be a world champion and Fahness is helping me get there. He always has answers to my questions and shows me what I need to do. If you want to learn how to box come over and he’ll show you because he’s really funny and cool with everybody. The gym is great too we have a lot of bags and space. Fahness is the best coach in OC.”
Lutalo claimed to have trained professional boxers, MMA fighters or those on their way to becoming grapplers.
Police are still trying to track down his killer.
The gunman fled the gym on foot after the shooting and remains at large, according to Tustin Police Lt. Bob Wright, who had no description of the shooter nor a motive for the attack.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 25, 6:06 A.M.: An unidentified man was shot dead Thursday at a Tustin mixed-martial arts and boxing training center.
Police were called to OC Boxing & MMA Academy, which is in the strip shopping center at 14051 Newport Ave., at 12:12 p.m., according to Tustin Police Lt. Bob Wright.
The victim was shot and died at the scene, said Wright.
Investigators were working to identify him.
The motive for the shooting “doesn’t appear to be a robbery,” Wright added.
Fahness Lutalo is the owner and head trainer at the gym that has only been open at that location a few months.
“We know that most MMA gyms say they teach classic boxing but they don’t… That’s why we opened OC Boxing & MMA Academy!” reads their website. “We really actually do teach real boxing and we are more active in the sport of boxing with more victories than any MMA gym in South Orange County. OC Boxing & MMA Academy was established in 2005, and yes, mixed martial arts is also our specialty. “