SOULVINE- Justice for us? Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced this week a new and overdue national initiative to “build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
“Mistrust between local la w enforcement and their communities has been the topic of national discussion since protests were sparked in Ferguson, Mo. by the Aug. 9th killing of 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson,” stated the DOJ’s press release.
The initiative reportedly grew from federal concern about the rising incidents of “officer involved shootings” across the nation and was developed in meetings Holder held with U.S. attorneys, that included the assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs and the director of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
Holder’s new “Community Trust” initiative was announced the day after the DOJ launched a $4.75 million study of “possible law-enforcement bias” existing in five yet-to-be-named U.S. cities. One of those cities needs to be Los Angeles. No, make that the entire county of Los Angeles, because 22 unarmed men have been killed in Los Angeles County since two Pasadena Police officers shot and killed the black unarmed 19-year-old college student Kendrec McDade in March of 2012.
The two officers who killed McDade were cleared of any wrong doing by the LA County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, who found merit in the internal Pasadena Police Department’s investigation of the teen’s killing. Nevertheless, Pasadena city officials settled civil lawsuits with Kendrec’s parents for $1 million over the youth’s slaying, and even now officials are refusing to release their full report --- which is a public document--- of Kendrec’s killing, even though four news media outlets, a Pasadena activist and the Pasadena NAACP have submitted public records requests to obtain the report.
Two LAPD gang unit cops shot 24-year-old mentally challenged Ezell Ford to death in South Los Angeles last month and we, the people, haven’t heard a word about it from either the killing agency or the killers’ enabler --- district attorney Lacey. And that’s not all. Have you heard a word about any of these unarmed victims of law enforcement in our county?
In February, 2013, Christopher Taylor, age 19, was killed by a cop in Long Beach, and 25-year-old Franco Emmanuel was killed in Monterey Park. In April, Mark Courtier, 50, was killed by cops in Los Angeles and on May 18, Terry Laffitte, 50, also fell to Los Angeles’ law enforcement bullets.
I remember the Laffitte killing because I wrote about it in The Wave. I recall that Laffitte was riding his bicycle home from his South LA neighborhood liquor store that evening and our ever vigilant cops saw him and concluded he was drunk. They didn’t stop him and make him walk home, but rather they followed him as he rode his bike home and shot him dead in his driveway when it got there --- in full view of his family. After the people held their protest march against Laffitte’s killing, I never heard another word about it. Did you?
The record of unarmed people killed by Los Angeles County law enforcement in June, 2013 shows that one “unknown male” met that fate on June 2 in Gardena and another “unknown male” was gunned down in Santa Monica on June 7. (They don’t even bother to name them! That’s too cold!!) Killed in September 2013 were John Del Real, 39 and Erick Balint, 32, both in Long Bach, and David Ward, 66, in Culver City, and in November: Damon Woods, 19, in Long Beach; Robert Bandler, 78, in Los Angeles and an “unknown” male in Long Beach, who is identified only as a “suspected gang member.”
Other unarmed people killed so far in 2014 by law enforcement in Los Angeles County include: Michael Valentino, 27, in Hollywood on March 3; John Winkler, 30, in Los Angeles sometime in April; Antoine Hunter, 24, in Compton on June 22; Samuel Johnson in Los Angeles on July 25; Luis Jobel, 33, in Los Angeles (for throwing rocks in Van Nuys!).
Also, Frank Mendoza, 54; who, on Aug. 2, was killed for being a curious bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mendoza was standing in front of his Los Angeles house watching deputies try to arrest his neighbor when he was killed by a wayward cop shot.
(Oh, and so was the man the deputies were after; but he was armed, so-o.) The next day, two Los Angeles gang unit sergeants stopped Omar Abrego, a 37-year-old father of three, for speeding down a South LA street and nearly hitting a pedestrian. Twelve hours later, he was dead. Abrego’s family and other witnesses assert that the two officers beat Abrego to death in front of their very eyes.
Just 10 days ago, Alphonse Edward Perkins, 50, was killed by Los Angeles‘ law enforcement officers.
I have not included on this list anyone who was armed or was committing a crime when he was killed by law enforcement. If I did, this list would be quite a bit longer.
ADDENDUM --- Activists Najee Ali, Earl Hutchinson and the NAACP sought a meeting with DA Lacey to discuss the notorious and widely viewed televised July 1 freeway beating of Marlene M. Pinnock by CHP Officer Daniel Andrew, as well as other social justice issues plaguing the community.
Last week, Lacey rejected the very notion of a meeting, citing the impropriety of such a gathering. An aide of Lacey’s answered the activists’ request, and wrote: “The district attorney will not be engaging in conversations, meetings or public forums where the topic is a pending matter, blah, blah, blah.” (Ed note: In the meantime, Marlene Pinnock has agreed to a $1.5 million settlement with the CHP.)
Well, that was the default position held by all the county’s district attorneys until the videotape of Rodney King’s beating by five LAPD cops was shown around the world and ignited the kind of racial outrage this country had never seen before. Even President George Bush denounced this city, its police and its politicians from the White House.
Open hostility and ill will became so raft that DA Ira Reiner began asking the people, “Can we talk?”
Not only did Reiner meet with the people, he held press conferences at which he related his thoughts on the calamity and described for the media his plans for the prosecution of the cops. I know because I was there when he told us he was going to charge and try four officers with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force on King.
I and other reporters wrote about the DA’s plans. Reiner didn’t hide anything from the people. And neither did Gil Garcetti, who replaced Reiner as DA after the acquittal of the four officers triggered the 1992 Los Angeles riot in which 53 people were killed, 2,000 people were injured and a billion dollars of damage was done to the city. Garcetti did a lot of talking; he even held a couple of community meetings at the Sentinel, where I worked.
So, if the present aloof DA Lacey doesn’t want to talk about our concerns, then to hell with her. We can talk to Attorney General Holder about them now and we can talk about Lacey when she tries to seek another term, later.
IN CONCLUSION --- All our prayers for the health of Najee Ali have been answered. His doctors informed him last week that his cancer is now in remission. Praise God.
(Betty Pleasant, a longtime columnist and urban voice, writes Soulvine and is a contributor to CityWatch.)
Vol 12 Issue 78
Pub: Sep 26, 2014