LIVES INTERRUPTED: The Takuma Ito & Go Matsuura Story

"LIVES INTERRUPTED: THE TAKUMA ITO AND GO MATSUURA STORY" is the tale of two Japanese students attending Marymount College in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. who lost their lives in a car jacking in San Pedro, California in 1994. The shooter, Raymond Butler, a gang member, executed them in a Ralph's parking lot and took their white Honda Civic. The two boys were film majors on their way to USC's School of Cinematic Arts. The tragedy left the parents, friends and fellow students stunned and horrified. Professor Bruce R. Schwartz, a Media Arts professor at the College and a filmmaker, tells the tale of what happened 18 years ago. Raymond Butler is currently in San Quentin on Death Row. The film examines the case and themes the events generated.

On March 25, 1994 at 11 p.m., the two boys had just finished having dinner with friends and were coming back from Gardena, a nearby LA community. They pulled into a Ralph's supermarket parking lot in San Pedro, which was down the hill from the college, to buy groceries. As Takuma Ito, the driver, was about to get out of his white 1994 Honda Civic, he was held up by Raymond Butler, a gang member who decided he wanted their car. Not wanting witnesses, Butler shot Tak Ito in the back of the head then turned the gun and also shot Go Matsuura in the back of the head. He managed to toss both bodies out of the car and drive off in their Civic.

The two boys lay unconscious, bleeding on the asphalt until a girl came out of Ralph's and called 911. An emergency (EMT) vehicle arrived moments later. Sirens blaring, the medics hurried the boys off to Harbor General Hospital. Although both were still alive, they were already brain dead. At the hospital they were put on life support until their parents could fly in from Japan, confer with doctors and make the decision to take them off life support.

Their dream of becoming filmmakers never happened.

The parents of the two boys established a memorial Film Series as an annual event for students, faculty, and members of the local community at Marymount College to honor and keep the memory of their sons' dreams alive. The Series is called the Ito/Matsuura Film Series and has been chaired by Professor Schwartz for the past 18 years to commemorate the boys love of film.

The documentary that Schwartz has done is a tribute to their dream of wanting to become filmmakers and their love of the United States and American culture. It is also an exploration of the history of what happened.

The film takes a hard look at what happened, includes pencil sketch dramatizations of the carjacking; snippets of interviews with family and friends left behind, grieving. The rage and sadness generated by these boys' murders deeply affected their friends and family.

In Japan, the incident was the stuff of national headlines. President Clinton wrote letters of sympathy to both parents. Walter Mondale, Ambassador to Japan at the time, conferred condolences with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Marymount College faculty and staff were devastated. Schwartz's film documents the effects on the college. Dr. Thomas McFadden, the president at the time was interviewed along with Marymount faculty who taught the two boys, in addition there are current interviews with the boys roommates and friends, both here and in Japan.

The spokesperson for the L.A. Police Department at the time of the killings is interviewed regarding gang culture in San Pedro and how the police were able to track down and arrest the shooter, Butler, within five days of the incident.

Both sets of parents indicate that their lives were permanently changed by the incident. The younger brother of Takuma Ito became an attorney for murder victims in Japan because of the loss. He has visited his brother's grave in Japan every morning for the past 18 years before he heads to work.

Schwartz's film documents the current conditions of people connected to the boys' lives and to the execution-style murders. In March 2012 he traveled to Japan to interview the parents and friends of the boys; he visited and filmed the gravesides of both victims, as well as the shrines that were set up by the parents to honor their son's memory.

Japanese journalists who reported on the event were interviewed.

The parents of the two boys returned to the United States in 1996, to visit Washington D.C. where they presented then President Clinton with a petition that included thousands of signatures asking for more stringent gun control laws.

Janet Moore, the prosecuting Attorney in the case against Raymond Butler was interviewed for the film.

The film audience is privy to pencil sketches of the trial, including getting an on camera look at the Death Penalty verdict handed down to Raymond Butler, the shooter by Judge Ronald Coen.

In conclusion, Schwartz's film addresses why Butler who has spent the past 18 years on San Quentin's Death Row without being executed and how much this has cost taxpayers as a result.

Implied in the narrative is the need for better gun control laws and that our society desperately needs to be less polarized into haves and have nots. Lastly, the film hopes to increase awareness of relevant social issues and themes and in doing so reduce the amount of violence in the world.

As mentioned, Schwartz went to Japan in March 2012 to film the back story of the two families, the enormity of changes the murders have caused.

His own evolving viewpoint on the case is explored and presented as the film ends.

The resulting film is brand new.