2 Charged with Murdering Man Who Was 'Executed' While He Dined at Popular LA Restaurant

Sidney Barrett Morris, 43, was an educator and nephew of a Motown singer

File: Getty police tape and police vehicles -- stock image
File: Getty police tape and police vehicles -- stock image

Two men have been charged with murder in connection with the execution-style killing of another man as he ate dinner in a popular downtown Los Angeles restaurant.

Sidney Barrett Morris, 43, had been dining alone at the Fixins Soul Kitchen on Nov. 28, 2023, around 6:15 p.m. when the crime happened, according to a press release shared by the L.A. County District’s Attorney’s Office on Thursday.

"Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced murder charges against two men involved in the murder of Sidney Barrett Morris, who was executed as he ate alone at the counter of a restaurant at L.A. Live late last year," the release read.

Phillip Pasco Clark, 33, of L.A. and Santana Jermaine Kelly, 50, of Palmdale each face one count of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit a crime. Kelly also faces one felony count of arson of property of another, per the D.A.'s Office.

A news conference was held on Thursday morning, in which L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Clark “walked straight up to Mr. Morris and shot him in the back of the head,” per the Los Angeles Times.

<p>Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty</p> Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, March 28, 2024

Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, March 28, 2024

The victim was an educator and nephew of a Motown singer.

“Sidney Barrett Morris, had dedicated his life’s work to fostering inclusivity and harmony within our society, making his untimely death all the more devastating,” Gascón said in the press release. “I want to express my sincere condolences to Mr. Morris’ family. The brazenness of this shooting is alarming, and my office is fully committed to bringing accountability to those responsible for this heinous crime.”

“While it does not bring Mr. Morris back to his loved ones, I am proud of the hard work and diligence of our Robbery Homicide Division to bring the murderers to justice,” L.A. Police Department Chief Dominic Choi added.

Morris’ most recent role was a coordinator of equity and diversity for Cal State Northridge.

In a 2019 article shared on the university’s website welcoming Morris as a staff member, it stated that his uncle is Motown songwriter Barrett Strong — who helped pen classics such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

Morris had been studying to become a lawyer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when he was fatally shot, Gascón said.

According to the Times, Capt. Scot Williams, head of the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division said Kelly and Clark were “acquaintances.” He also stated that both men were gang members, but did not say which gang they were affiliated with.

Prosecutors said that eight days prior to Morris’ death, Kelly surveilled his “place of business” at the 1100 block of South Hope Street in downtown L.A., per the Times.

<p>Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty </p> Fixins Soul Kitchen at L.A. Live

Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty

Fixins Soul Kitchen at L.A. Live

“Clark allegedly walked in [to Fixins Soul Kitchen], walked straight to the victim, and shot him, killing him instantly. Clark fled the location in a vehicle driven by an unknown individual,” according to the press release.

“Kelly is alleged to have helped plan the murder, providing supplies and support. The day after the murder, Kelly is accused of setting fire to the getaway car in an attempt to destroy evidence,” the release adds.

Kelly and Clark pleaded not guilty during their arraignment on Tuesday.

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The defendants’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 25, 2024 in Dept. 50 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz-Criminal Justice Center.

If convicted as charged, Kelly faces a maximum sentence of 100 years to life. Clark faces a maximum sentence of 85 years to life.

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