Enough of blaming
the police for the problems of Black America and further politicizing
our law enforcement agencies! The media needs to take a harder
tact with community leaders as well.
probably some risk of being called insensitive, racist, or
worse in broaching this subject in a column but, hey, as the
Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran used to say, The truth will
death of 13-year-old South Los Angeles car thief Devin Brown
was a tragedy, not because LAPD Officer Steve Garcia shot
him, but because the incident is a symptom of many much larger
problems. The media has as much of a responsibility to ask
the hard questions of the community as it does of the police
about what happened and why.
is that too many so-called leaders in the African-American
community seem to always label the policed guilty of murdering
little Devin before they:
1) have all the facts in hand;
2) admit that their so-called leadership is exacerbating problems
in poor communities;
3) seek answers on what the hell a 13-year-old was doing eluding
police in a stolen car at
4 oclock in the morning;
4) take corrective action to make sure parents like Devins
show more responsibility and supervision over their kids so
we dont have any more deaths like this one; and
5) gain a true appreciation of the constant threats of death
police face every single day.
There are other
problems associated with this tragedy and they also have very
serious consequences for our society that not too many people
have been willing to openly discuss, including the media,
but I will.
First of all, lets not forget that Officer Garcia and
his partner, Dana Grant, are veteran officers who will have
to live with the shooting death not just for the rest of their
careers, but for the rest of their lives. The split second
decisions they made will live forever in their psyche. But
the so-called leaders and many of the media who were so quick
to point a finger of blame at Officer Garcia fail to note
that two weeks ago, Garcia was praised for his work because
he helped apprehend the man who allegedly caused the deadly
train wreck in Glendale that killed 11 innocent commuters.
Today, he unfortunately is at the center of the storm that
has developed over Devins death.
Is Garcia the
cold-blooded killer some Black activists allege? "Nobody
wanted this to happen, on both sides," Garcia told a
reporter. "I will say that. It's the last thing in the
world that I wanted to happen."
That response did not get wide-spread reporting coverage.
The other problem this shooting has spawned is the crass political
response by L.A. Mayor James Hahn who followed Devins
coffin and his mother into the church service as if he was
the official L.A. City honor guard. What a jerk!
Hahn, fighting for his political life and re-election, has
no scruples and no shame when it comes to taking advantage
of this tragedy for political gain. He forced his police commissioners
to hurriedly pass a controversial change in policy about when
police can fire at a moving car when they are in fear of their
lives or that of innocent civilians.
Hahn brags in his political commercials about bringing former
NYPD Chief Bill Bratton to L.A., but the old New Yorker cant
help trying to get media attention, even if it means he has
to be outrageous as he was in the aftermath of the Devin Brown
shooting. He told reporters and anyone else within ear range
that "At each (shooting) incident we risk this city going
up in flames once again," Bratton said, "which has
happened twice in recent history (Watts in 1965 and the Rodney
King beating trial aftermath in 1992)." Why is a Chief
of Police pathetically promoting such a self-fulfilling prophecy?
With that 1-2-punch
of Jimmy the Shameless Charlatan and Bratton the Blabber Mouth,
its no wonder the facts inconveniently get in the way
of what activist and political loudmouths want to try and
get us to believe in the Devin Brown case and anything else
which they find convenient to distort.
In my many years
as a reporter, commentator, talk show host, and LAPD critic
and volunteer, I have spent thousands of hours in police cars
all over L.A., from the Harbor to the Valley, and from South
L.A. to east L.A. It makes me wonder why reporters today arent
challenging some of the disgusting claims being made by activists
against the police when reporters, from experience, know better.
are willing to ask the hard questions of police and elected
officials about campaign pledges and contributions, and go
after business leaders on questionable business decisions,
then they should use the same standard when talking with so-called
community leaders who have the ear of the poorer masses in
the streets of L.A. when it comes to issues affecting the
community at large like this shooting.
The Monday morning
quarterbacks in the Devin Brown shooting claim Officer Garcia
should have known it was a 13-year-old driving
the car even though the officers didnt find out until
AFTER the shooting. They also say Garcia should have waited
to fire on Brown until he saw a weapon as Brown was driving
his stolen car towards the officers.
But what these
screeching street critics dont understand is that officers
have been shot and stabbed by thugs, gang-bangers, as well
as seemingly innocent kids AND senior citizens and everyone
in-between. Officers dont really know if the creep driving
toward them after failing to obey previous orders to stop
is just angling to get closer to kill a cop. Police officers
have been ambushed in various parts of the city over the years,
but especially in high crime areas like South L.A.
Let me give
you just one example of a case that closely parallels the
circumstances of the Devin Brown case in many ways, but unfortunately,
the occupants of the car being chased in the parallel case
DID have weapons and a police officer WAS killed. And that
officers life was a hell of a lot more valuable than
some punk car thief.
Read this and
weep for a fallen officer and hero.
On the night
of Sept. 3, 1988, 77th Division officers Dan Pratt and Veronica
Delao, driving an undercover car, were staked out at the Pine
Liquor Store in South Central Los Angeles in Rolling 60s Crip
neighborhood when they heard what they thought were two shotgun
blasts. They then heard rapid gunfire and within five seconds
saw a car's headlights. This was a car that had been involved
minutes before in a gang drive-by shooting which left three
people wounded. They radioed their supervisor for permission
to follow the car and the chase began.
The chase ended
up at Florence and Crenshaw streets, at the Chevron gas station
and adjacent car wash on the north-east corner, where the
two officers parked their patrol car for cover. As Officer
Pratt called for back up, and requested a police helicopter,
the two suspects in the car made an abrupt u-turn, coming
back at the two officers. Officer Pratt saw this, and as bullets
from the suspects' AR-15 assault weapon started to hit the
car, he returned fire. As he fired the last round from his
9-mm service revolver, he took a fatal round, dying instantly.
He was just 30 years old.
Dan Pratt was
survived by his pregnant wife, Andria; a daughter, Amanda;
sons, Danny Jr. and Nicholas; and unborn daughter, Heather,
who was born on Feb. 7, 1989, five months after her Dad was
murdered following the car chase that turned deadly. Also
surviving him were his parents, Joyce and Roy Pratt Sr., four
brothers, three sisters, and a host of other loved ones and
fellow police officers.
And while Devin
Brown left behind a mother and sister, and others who loved
him, the lesson here is clear. African American leaders throughout
Los Angeles must make sure they and their community take responsibility
for keeping kids like Devin at home in the wee hours of the
night. They must stop blaming the rest of the world for the
ills they have failed to eradicate. Yes, once there was slavery
and yes, there is poverty in many communities, and yes, discrimination
still rears its ugly head too often in our society.
ALL segments of our society face seemingly insurmountable
problems today. Blacks dont have a monopoly on the pains
of social ills. Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans deal
with poverty, discrimination and violence every day. Its
not just a Black problem. Women still commonly face discrimination
and are routinely paid less than men.
While some Jews
survived the Holocaust, they still face discrimination all
over the world. And am I the only one who finds it rather
ironic that some Black leaders, like Nation of Islam leader
Louis Farrakhan, whose minions served as pall bearers at Devin
Browns funeral, call Jews the Devil and
claim the Holocaust never occurred? Are we expected as a society
to accept one repressed group openly trying to repress another?
I dont think so.
us, finally, to the disgusting response from some community
folk who apparently, in the vernacular of the streets, dont
know no better. They saw the shooting of Devin Brown
from a perspective that raises serious questions about whether
we can EVER put aside prejudice and come together as a truly
peaceful and productive society. And reporters who accepted
these quotes should have challenged not only the lack of accuracy
of some of these comments, but they should have probed further
into what these comments do in further polarizing an already
divided L.A. community.
Robinson-Gaither of Faith United Methodist Church is quoted
as saying, Devin Brown's life was stolen by the police
without a moment's hesitation. It was almost commonplace,
routine: chase, stop, shoot. Another senseless killing by
the police. They just like to take out young people's lives.
They don't value us."
How about Congresswoman
Maxine Waters who seemingly is always in search of the deepest
hole she can dig: When I learned about the killing of
13-year-old Devin Brown, an African American boy, on a street
corner in South Central Los Angeles, quite frankly, my reaction
was, Once again, the police in our community act as
judge, jury and executioner.
an African American from Windsor Hills, called the fatal police
shooting of Devin a travesty. That kid shouldn't have
been out at 4 in the morning," Newton admitted, but she
if a white teenager was out joyriding
at any time of night, he would have just been ticketed."
let facts get in the way of your myopic and racist view of
life, my dear. Why dont you ask the family of Nicholas
Killinger, a White Man in the last high-profile incident in
which an LAPD officer shot and killed him outside Santa Monica
High School nearly a year ago when he backed his car toward
officers at the end of a televised 90-minute pursuit. Was
his skin color an issue? No!! Why didnt reporters remind
these people of the Killinger shooting when they claimed police
only shoot at cars containing Black kids? Lets be thorough
in our reporting.
Those of us
who have been around law enforcement a while cringed as that
shooting developed. It looked wrong from the very beginning
to us, but we were not facing that car as it backed up towards
the officers. LAPD called it out of policy the
day after Devin died, but bad stuff DOES happen with police
officers. Its just a matter of time, or percentages,
that some shootings are clearly clean, some are a little muddy,
and others stink to high heaven.
But the total
ignorance of facts, and worse, the creation of pure fabrications
by ignorant or self-serving activists about what happened,
is still a big problem for all of us here in L.A. And reporters
should NOT let people get away with making up stories and
distorting the facts.
to the reality of kids gone bad in our own back yards is,
in my humble opinion, as infinitely harmful and destructive
as the knee-jerk reactionary assaults on our police by activists,
and the knee-jerk political whoring of tragedies like this
shooting by politicians.
to say that it looks like we still havent learned to
work together as a community in the 17 years since LAPD Officer
Dan Pratt was killed after a car chase a mere two miles from
where Devin Brown was shot. Not much has changed in L.A. in
terms of gang crime and drive-bys, car pursuits are still
a regular staple for TV, and police officers face more danger
than ever before.
Maybe the Devin
Brown case will finally teach us to focus on doing a better
job of policing our kids so our police officers can focus
on policing our communities. And lets pray that we are
able to keep more heroes like Dan Pratt alive and Steve Garcia
on the streets as the thin blue line that protects our freedom
and from the chaos of crime. And lets make sure reporters
ask everybody involved the same hard questions.