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Mother of Australian man ‘senselessly murdered’ in LA pays tribute to ‘beautiful’ son after suspect’s arrest

The mother of a 30-year-old Australian personal trainer murdered in Los Angeles has welcomed the arrest of his alleged killer, saying one thing helping her through this devastating time was ensuring her son gets justice.
Former Sydney resident Azuma Bennett was shot multiple times outside a medicinal cannabis dispensary in August, just weeks before he was due to return to Australia for a holiday.
LA police recently arrested a local man over his murder.
In an exclusive interview, Victoria Milton told SBS News Azuma had moved to the United States in 2019 to connect with his African-American culture after the death of his father a few years earlier.
“He was still grieving the loss of his father … at the time that he went, and also his African-American heritage as well,” Ms Milton said.
“Growing up as young Black man, a Black child, he always kind of felt different, noticeably different to other people and obviously at times he did suffer prejudice as well.

“I think it’s just part of finding himself really.”

Azuma Bennett with his father Randy. Source: Supplied

Azuma was due to return to Australia for the first time since moving to LA just weeks before he was killed.

“One of his best friends Eddie was getting married … and so Azuma was coming back for that,” Ms Milton said.

“So it was very heartbreaking timing to be going over there [LA], knowing that he was soon on his way over here, and going over there knowing he’s gone, he had been murdered.”

Two young men wearing sunglass pose

Azuma Bennett (left) with his good friend Eddie. Source: Supplied

Career was taking off in America

Having worked as a personal trainer and at gyms including Bondi Boxing, Ms Milton said Azuma, who was also a martial arts expert, thought he could further his career in Los Angeles but it took a while to establish himself. He arrived in late 2019 just before the emergence of COVID-19 and left the city during lockdowns, staying with family in North Carolina.
When he did return to LA, Ms Milton said a lot of businesses were still shut down.

“So he went back and he started just doing some complimentary boxing classes to help kids,” she said.

A man in a white shirt stands with his arm around a woman

Azuma Bennett with his mum Victoria Milton. Source: Supplied

“He wanted to help Black kids in bad neighbourhoods, or in difficult circumstances, to help give them confidence and give them a positive light for the future.

“He basically charged people what they could afford.”

Ms Milton said he continued to do this type of work even as his career took off, and he began working with celebrities including Captain America star Frank Grillo, who later described Azuma as “beautiful guy” who made “everybody feel good about training”.

He wanted to help Black kids in bad neighbourhoods, or in difficult circumstances, to help give them confidence and give them a positive light for the future

Victoria Milton

Ms Milton said Azuma was a “beautiful, genuine, authentic human being” who had grown up in their Australian Jow Ga Kung Fu Academy. His father was the late Grandmaster SiGung Randy Sullivan Bennett.
“He loved teaching children in particular really connected with them, and did everything he could to help them find their courage and their strength, and bring shy people and shy children out of their shells,” she said.
Ms Milton said she was grateful for the work of the LA Homicide Bureau after Los Angeles man Gabriel Alvarado was arrested on 22 September and charged for her son’s murder. He will appear before the Airport Courthouse, Los Angeles on 21 November.
“There’s a lot … that I know about the investigation, that I can’t say,” she said.

Ms Milton specifically thanked Detective Sergeants Bell and Austin of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who “tirelessly and diligently” followed all leads in the case.

A couple pose in front of a stone figure of Martin Luther King Jr.

Azuma Bennett poses with his girlfriend Sophia in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Washington, DC. Source: Supplied

“It has been a deeply emotional and difficult time grieving the loss of my only child whilst waiting in suspense for his murderer to be arrested,” she said.

She said it had given her some small comfort that justice had been enacted as she held a private memorial in Sydney on 3 September, knowing that an arrest had been made.
“Knowing my son lost his life on the brink of an extraordinary career … is extremely hard to bear,” she said.

Ms Milton acknowledged there was a long road ahead but asked what was helping her get through this time she said: “just my strength and doing my son justice … doing my son honour and justice”.

‘He really touched so many people’

Ms Milton said she was also very grateful to the many people who had contributed to a GoFundMe page, which raised more than $42,000 to help with the costs of getting Azuma’s body back to Australia and to help take care of his dog Keyshia.
She said Azuma had adopted his rescue dog Keyshia about four years ago and there was no way he would leave her behind when he went to America. “She was the joy of his life,” she said.
The money also helped his family travel to the US for a memorial at Fortune Gym in LA. The gym is run by former Australian heavyweight boxer Justin Fortune.
“He really touched so many people, and at his memorial in Fortune Gym and after our formal eulogies, a lot of people got up and just hopped in the ring and shared their experiences with Azuma, what he meant to them, things he’d done for them,” Ms Milton said.
“I think a lot of people over there felt that he had a huge heart, and that he’d give them the shirt off his back, you know that he’d do anything for other people. And yeah, I’m very proud of him.”

Ms Milton said she would not be making further statements and has asked for privacy and sensitivity during this time.

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