The Troubling Life And Death Of Boyz N The Hood Actor Lloyd Avery II

The shotgun slowly emerged from the back of the car. Wielding it was a young man with a cold stare. He pulled the trigger. The man, billed as "Knucklehead #2," in the credits for the groundbreaking 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood," was an up-and-coming actor named Lloyd Avery II. Avery, unlike the role he played in the Oscar-nominated film, wasn't a gangster from the hood.

He'd grown up near the Los Angeles neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, often referred to as the Black Beverly Hills — in a home with loving parents, a pool in the backyard, and what appeared to be a bright future. "We were silver spoon kids," his younger brother Che Avery told the Chicago Defender. "We never needed for nothing." But less than a decade after his first role, Lloyd Avery II would end up in prison for a double homicide. In 2005, his cellmate murdered him in a sad end for an actor who, according to the people he worked with, had talent to spare and could have ended up a leading man if his life hadn't spiraled out of control.

The It factor

Lloyd Avery II attended Beverly Hills High School and brushed up against the sons and daughters of the famous. According to King magazine, he was friends with the son of Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones III, and Smokey Robinson's daughter, Tamla. Avery did well academically, but after graduation, he drifted until he got a shot at acting. His first foray into Hollywood came when his friend John Singleton (above) tapped him to be in "Boyz n the Hood" in a small but pivotal role as the killer of one of the main protagonists.

Singleton cast Avery in his follow-up film "Poetic Justice." "Lloyd had a presence that I think was undeniable," casting director Robi Reed told the Chicago Defender. "When people refer to that 'it' factor, it's really intangible — you just know when you see it." Jaki Brown, the casting director for "Boyz n the Hood," believed "with more acting experience he would be a leading man one day." Even as Avery's behavior became more and more erratic — he racked up assault and other charges and the makers of the film "Lockdown" threw him off the set for unruly behavior — he continued getting accolades. The writer-director Roger Roth, who cast Avery in his final role in "Shot," told the Chicago Defender he was "one of the best actors I ever worked with."

From actor to gangster

By the late 1990s, Lloyd Avery II had fully embraced the kinds of characters he'd been portraying on screen. "Instead of just being a Hollywood-like studio gangster, he was living it," Che Avery told King magazine. The actor moved into a gang-heavy neighborhood called the Jungle, allegedly became affiliated with the Bloods, and tattooed JUNGLEZ above his left eyebrow, per the Chicago Defender. Fellow actor Malcolm Norrington told King magazine that Avery had gone from being "kind of meek" during the filming of "Boyz n the Hood" to missing auditions for other acting jobs to joining a gang and "blooding."

Avery was also trying to jumpstart his music career as a gangster rapper using the name L.A. Deuce and was working on a script about gang life, which may have played into his embrace of this subculture. Quincy Jones III, with whom he shared an apartment, recalled that Avery began spending more and more time with local gangsters who "sent him on these crazy missions" in which "people weren't sure if he would come back."

Prison and murder

In December 1999, the Los Angeles Police Department charged Lloyd Avery II with the murders of Annette Lewis and Percy Branch. Investigators alleged he'd killed the pair over a drug debt that July, per the Chicago Defender. Police said Avery shot Lewis with a .45 caliber pistol, killing her, and mortally wounded Branch with a shot to the stomach. The shooting occurred outside in broad daylight, per King magazine. Lewis had five bullet wounds, including one in her back. In between the time of the murders and his arrest, Avery acted in two films. In 2000, a judge sentenced Avery to life in prison.

While incarcerated, he became religious, earning the nickname "Baby Jesus." But when he tried to convert his cellmate Kevin Roby, who was an avowed Satanist, conflict ensued. Roby had raped and murdered his own sister in 1987, according to The Los Angeles Times. Roby choked Avery to death in September 2005 after an alleged altercation over religion and later performed a ritual over the remains. At the time of his death, Avery had been continuing to work on the film script about gang life.