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Desperate mother advertises on Banning billboard for clues in son’s slaying

Watchfire Signs

Michelle Cunningham is frustrated that the slaying of her 21-year-old son Brad in Banning remains unsolved almost two years after his death.

Cunningham offered an unspecified reward and distributed hundreds of flyers and postcards asking for anyone with information about the July 1, 2018 shooting to come forward. She also regularly contacted the Banning police detective handling the investigation and met with the chief of police, but nothing she did resulted in an arrest.

So late in 2019, Cunningham decided to think bigger. She considered hiring an airplane to fly a banner over Banning. Ultimately she chose to rent space on a billboard to aid in her quest for clues.

That billboard, on Ramsey Street near the Banning Police Department, bears her son’s name and face and the words “Do You Know … Who MURDERED me???” as well as two phone numbers to call in tips.

“I was trying to think outside the box,” Cunningham said. “How could I get someone to talk? Who knows, maybe someone will flip.”

On the day Brad Cunningham was killed, his mother said, he was riding in a car with a friend. They had driven down a cul-de-sac on the east side of Banning when a car pulled up alongside them. An occupant said something and then fired, striking both men. Cunningham’s friend drove him to a home where they had been hanging out that day. Cunningham died, his mother said. The friend survived.

Michelle Cunningham, 40, described Brad as down to earth and genuine. He attended Beaumont High and finished up at Glenview High. Cunningham was working at Dura Plastic Products in Beaumont, operating a forklift and pulling orders, at the time of his death.

“Everybody loved Brad,” she said. “He was so funny and playful. His smile was contagious.”

The billboard went up in September 2019 along the westbound 10 Freeway between Sunset and Highland Springs avenues. The billboard was taken down at the end of the year, went back up during February, was taken down again before reappearing in its current location on April 3. Cunningham said she occasionally pulled it down and put it back up because of the cost and in the hope that a reappearance would spark new discussion in the community about the case.

The initial charge for the billboard was $1,400. Cunningham said she is receiving a discount off the usual $800-$900 monthly fee to keep it up.

“I just want answers,” she said.

Michelle Cunningham, the mother of Brad Cunningham, has distributed hundreds of flyers seeking information on her 21-year-old son’s shooting death in Banning on July 1, 2018. (Courtesy of Michelle Cunningham)

Cunningham said she has never seen the award-winning 2017 film, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” in which a woman rents billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved killing. Neither has Banning Police Chief Matthew Hamner, who said he welcomed any contribution Cunningham’s billboard could make to solving the crime.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Could you ever do too much if it’s your child?”

Hamner declined to discuss the circumstances of the slaying or confirm Michelle Cunningham’s account out of concern that doing so could jeopardize the investigation. He has spoken with Cunningham and knows she is unhappy with the results so far.

“I empathize and sympathize that it’s frustrating to wait for answers,” Hamner said. “We’re still working it. These cases never go away.”

Information on Cunningham’s slaying may be reported anonymously to the Police Department at 951-922-3170 or to WeTip at 951-782-7463 or on its website, wetip.com.

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