Isn't everything just grand out here in La La Land?
Nah. Not really.
For those who hadn't heard, a 13 year old kid named Devin Brown was fatally shot by the good ole LAPD earlier in February, and now our punk ass District Attorney announced that no charges will be filed against the officer in question. Here's a little snippet, click here for the entire article:
District Attorney Steve Cooley, in a 21-page report, said there was "insufficient evidence to initiate criminal proceedings against Officer Steven Garcia for the death of Devin B. As a result of these findings, we are closing our file and will take no further action in this matter."
When this all went down, I wrote a letter and sent it to the Chief of Police, the Police Commission, and our council members. It's a little long but worth the read. RIP Devin.
February 10th, 2005
South Central Redux
Four days later, and the details are still being revised and reworked, typical LAPD style. There’s so much we still don’t know, they moan, so please, everyone. Be patient.
But this, we do know:
Devin Brown is dead.
Devin was 13. He was in the magnet program at Audubon Middle school. He was a good student. Was popular and well-liked. No gang affiliations. He was loved. He was black. His family resided in South Central Los Angeles, which meant the alleged “protection” of his life fell under the jurisdiction of the LAPD. He was out joyriding in a stolen car with a friend early Sunday morning, when he was murdered in a drive-by shooting. The suspect was wearing a badge, wielding a department-issued semi-automatic, and emptied ten bullets into the car Devin was driving.
And now, Devin Brown is dead.
People are enraged. And my hands haven’t stopped shaking since.
As with anything else, I had to try and make sense of it. I read the Times, watched the news, scanned the net, talked to folks. Before I unleashed my accumulating rage with pen and paper, I wanted to watch Chief Bratton’s press conference, because, well, you know. To er, um..get the facts. There’s word around town how we in the community tend to “overact” when an unarmed person of color ends up beaten or shot at the end of one of those pesky traffic stops. We’re kind of funny that way.
So, yesterday evening around six, I was immediately greeted with a stern lecture by Deputy Chief Michael Berkow of the Department’s Professional Standards Bureau about all the legal requirements involved and the multiple parallel investigations taking place and how we shouldn’t be so easily swayed by rumors.
I was then treated to some fancy PowerPoint presentation, where Chief Berkow barked about details of timelines and skid marks and broken glass and patrol car damage and accident reconstruction, as if to give silly little ol’ misinformed over-reactionary me the reasons why Officer Steven Garcia had no other alternative but to squeeze ten caps into a moving vehicle purportedly pulled over for drunk driving.
Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. And this is really important: We are to save our immediate concerns about where the officer was standing when he was “threatened” by this vehicle, or why it took ten (POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP) rounds to respond to such a situation, or what this fool’s partner was doing at the time, or how he actually endangered other officers and citizens by his excessive, trigger-happy behavior; save all those questions because this officer has rights and this officer is distraught and this officer didn’t ever really intend to kill a 13-year old child. Oh, and the FBI has been called in to investigate any possible civil rights violations, and hopefully that’ll make you people happy, but just know they’ll have limited authority in this investigation so there’s nothing to see here everybody just go home and be patient and give the system opportunity to work.
It was the most non-informative, unapologetic, suspicious, defensive press conference I’d seen LAPD deliver in quite some time. In six, seven months, at least. Since Stanley Miller got the boot-and-flashlight beat down, after lying prone with his hands behind his back and two officers sitting on him and the whole thing was caught on videotape. Since then.
Strange how everyone up at the podium last night just seemed a little bit pissed. That they were being forced to explain themselves, once again. That they were being called to the carpet. Again.
And another thing. No one, nobody, not a soul – not once - extended sympathy for Devin Brown. Or his family, friends, or classmates. About what another tragedy this is turning out to be, for a community, our police department. Our city.
It was all spin. Damage control. Justification. Bullshit.
And this just might be me, but I have to wonder how scared Devin was during the last moments of his life in that car. He was a kid. He was probably inexperienced behind the wheel. He probably panicked. He was caught, he knew that for sure. Not for one second do I believe he was trying to threaten or kill that officer, whom he knew had a bulletproof vest, backup, and a gun. You don’t come up in South Central not knowing who has the upper hand in a situation like that. Yes, he stole a car and had no damn business being out in the first place. He had some consequences coming, and rightfully so.
But he didn’t deserve to die.
And something else I know for fact: Had these been Orange County cops and Orange county kids, none of this would have ever ever happened. Don’t fool yourself. White kids don’t get shot for stealing a car, they get apprehended. Taken to the station, reprimanded, then sent home or down to juvenile hall. Simple. Easy.
But everything’s so complicated around here, they tell us. We’ve got all this history. Like – Chief Darryl Gates. Latasha Harlins. Rodney. All white-jury acquittals. Riots. Rampart. Police shootings of mentally ill grandmothers, beat-downs on handcuffed teenagers. Now, the natives are unruly. The cops are scared. Everyone’s just fearful and resentful and angry.
But any way you slice it, here’s the real deal:
Devin Brown’s tragedy – just like Margaret Mitchell’s, Juan Sepulveda’s and Anthony Dwain Lee’s – stems directly from the wack attitudes and policies within the Los Angeles Police Department, that support the general belief that the majority of black and brown people in the communities they “serve” are expendable lowlifes.
LAPD feels we don’t care about the crime and violence within our own communities, so why should they. They feel we only start hollering when some white-cop/black-person incident goes down , which is what Councilman Dennis Zine hinted at yesterday, which is complete bull. (Excuse me Councilman Zine, but you’re an asshole) When 14 year old Byron Lee was gunned down by gangsters in that alley, our community was as equally outraged. We cooperated, assisted, risked personal safety to put those murderers behind bars. Which is more than I can say for the Police Department, and the killers they have in their midst.
And besides, we told Chief Bratton that these police drive-bys need to be handled, and he promised to “review the policy of police shooting into moving vehicles” after Juan Sepulveda got “stopped” LAPD-style. That was over a year ago. And now suddenly, after this latest disaster which prompted folks to bum rush the streets and City Hall and raise holy unmitigated hell, Chief Bratton has now drafted a new policy that will go to the Police Commission, quick, like next week.
Wonderful. He sat on his ass just long enough for Devin to lose his life.
Meanwhile Officer Garcia is very much alive and has been relegated to desk duty, and Devin Brown’s family is planning a funeral.
I didn’t know Devin, but then again, yes I did. Most of us do. He’s Your Nephew, My Son, Her Brother, or Cousin, or Student, or so-and-so’s Best Friend or Schoolmate. He is every little boy we live to do right by, knowing all the while, he’ll grow up and get older and not be under our influence or control all the time. Sometimes, they might use bad judgement. And if that happens, we know there is little room for mistakes. Not around here. A mishap could very easily cost them their lives.
“There’s a lack of trust in large segments of this community, particularly the African-American community, in the LAPD. That’s unfortunate, but that’s a reality,” Chief Bratton admits.
That’s real profound, Chief. But don’t stop there. Admit there’s something grossly wrong within this department you’ve inherited, admit there’s something wrong with Officer Garcia, and you handle it. No grandstanding, no justifications, no excuses. Admit the department needs sincere reform from within, along with the banishment of the kick ass-shoot-kill culture in which these officers are indoctrinated.
Yeah, I know. Not every officer contributes to the cancer in this city. There are decent ones. But the good, decent ones can’t seem to keep the others from doing all the damage. And because of it, once again, our city is falling apart.
It’s like de ja vu. Over and over and over. Again and again and again.
Note* everyone pictured has either been killed or brutalized by the Los Angeles Police Department. Except Donovan Jackson, which was the Inglewood Police Department.