The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 39      October 6, 2008

Los Angeles-area police
killed 35 people this year
INGLEWOOD, California—“Too many people have been gunned down, and the police are walking away totally free,” declared Keisha Brunston at a meeting of the city council here September 9.

Dozens of people showed up at the meeting to denounce the police killing of Eddie Franco. Brunston held up a photo of her nephew, Deandre Brunston, who was killed by police in nearby Compton five years ago.

In a hail of almost 50 bullets Inglewood cops shot and killed Franco, a 56-year-old homeless man, on August 31. Police said they fired on Franco because they mistook a toy gun he had in his waistband for the real thing. In the wild firing that ensued, the cops also wounded a driver stopped at a nearby traffic light and shot another homeless man’s dog.

This is the fourth police killing in Inglewood in as many months.

“Witnesses said the cops roped off the area. They knew he [Franco] was drunk. When he tried to put up his hands he fell forward and they shot him nearly 50 times,” Morris Griffin told the city council meeting. “I’m tired of coming to this podium to discuss the diabolical actions of the police department.”

The previous day, Franco’s son and two brothers traveled to Inglewood to hold a press conference at the police department, where they demanded an investigation. They said that those found responsible for his death should be punished.

The shootings in this small city, where a majority of residents are Black, comes in the context of at least 35 killings by police in the Los Angeles metropolitan area since the start of this year. Many of the victims were unarmed.

“We could have done a better job tactically,” said Inglewood police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, referring to the killing of Franco. “I would have preferred that far fewer rounds would have been fired.” The Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed cop as saying Franco may have been the victim of “contagious fire”—“a phenomenon in which an officer opens fire after he hears other officers firing and misinterprets the shots as being an attack.”

The city council released a one-page statement saying in part that the eight officers involved in the shooting, who are on administrative leave, would be returned to duty after they have “received enhanced training.” Two of the cops involved in Franco’s killing had previously been involved in the killing of two other unarmed men in 2004 and 2007.

In the last four months Inglewood police have shot and killed three other men. On May 11 Michael Byoune, 19, was killed and two other youths injured; all three were unarmed. On July 1, Ruben Ortega, an unarmed 23-year-old, was shot. And on July 21 Kevin Wicks, a 38-year-old postal worker who the police said answered his own door armed with a gun, was shot down. Police were responding to a call and got the wrong address.

The same cop who killed Wicks, Brian Ragan, had recently come off leave after killing Byoune.

On August 24 about 30 people gathered outside the Los Angeles County sheriff’s station in Compton for a rally against police brutality, marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Deandre Brunston. Among those present were relatives of others recently killed by the police.

Chanta Deeminter described how her boyfriend, Bryan Moore, was killed in front of her on June 26. “He ran when he saw the cops coming. They shot him three times in the back. They stayed out all night looking for something to pin on him, and there was nothing.”

Christian Portillo was shot and killed sitting in a car in his own driveway July 23. “They shot him twice in the chest,” said his mother, Elida Portillo. “He didn’t have a chance to raise his hands. He had a silver cell phone and they said they thought it was a gun. He had no gun, no drugs.”

“I’m focusing on fighting to have the cop who killed Christian jailed,” Portillo added.

Speaking at the September 9 city council meeting, James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party was well received when he said, “What is needed is not a police review board or more ‘sensitivity training’ for the cops. We can’t get sidetracked by phrases like ‘contagious fire.’ Working people have to call for the prosecution and jailing of cops who commit murder. It’s as simple as that.”
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