[News] Hundreds dead, no one charged: the uphill battle against Los Angeles police killings

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Fri Aug 24 17:37:20 EDT 2018


https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/24/los-angeles-police-violence-shootings-african-american?CMP=share_btn_fb 



  Hundreds dead, no one charged: the uphill battle against Los Angeles
  police killings

Sam Levin - August 24, 2018
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Catherine Walker closed her eyes, pressed her hands over her ears, and 
tried to escape.

It’s been four months since Los Angeles 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/los-angeles> police killed her son, 
Grechario Mack, whose death barely made headlines, who did not become a 
viral hashtag. On a recent afternoon, the 59-year-old mother wore pins 
with her son’s face and said she was ready to speak. But when the moment 
came, she could hardly talk.

As relatives recounted the killing around her, she tried to shut out the 
words describing Mack’s last moments. Eventually, she collapsed in her 
chair in anguish.

“I couldn’t save my baby,” she cried as someone held her. “When they 
took my son’s life, they took a part of me.”

Police shot Mack, a 30-year-old father of two, in the middle of a mall 
on the afternoon of 10 April, as he was holding a kitchen knife and 
having a mental health crisis. Less than 24 hours later, officers 
arrived at a park and killed Kenneth Ross Jr, another black resident who 
struggled with mental illness and was said to be fleeing when police 
shot him with a military-style rifle.

The two families, brought together by Black Lives Matter the day of 
Ross’s death, are now channeling their grief into a fight for justice – 
taking on one of the country’s deadliest police systems, where law 
enforcement killings of black mentally ill residents are so normalized, 
families struggle to be heard. They face an uphill battle in the most 
secretive state in the US for police misconduct, in a region where 
officers who shoot are never prosecuted.

“Mentally, I can’t even do nothing right now,” said Fouzia Almarou, 
Ross’s mother. “But I’m gonna stay strong … I want to make sure my son 
is remembered.”


    ‘Police don’t have to care’

Police in America kill more people in days 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/09/the-counted-police-killings-us-vs-other-countries> 
than other countries do in years, and Los Angeles law enforcement has 
repeatedly led the US with its body count 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-map-us-police-killings>, 
according to The Counted, a Guardian US project that tracked deaths 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men> 
at the hands of law enforcement 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/ties-that-bind-conflicts-of-interest-police-killings>.

 From 2010 to 2014, police in LA county shot 375 people, about one 
person every five days. Black residents make up 9% of the population, 
but represented 24% of deaths 
<https://www.npr.org/2015/11/10/455502419/in-los-angeles-piecing-together-the-numbers-on-police-shootings>.

Across the US, the odds are stacked against families who look to courts 
for justice. Charges are extremely rare 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/08/the-counted-police-killings-2016-young-black-men> 
and convictions even rarer 
<http://graphics.latimes.com/officer-involved/>, with the law widely 
protecting officers who claim they feared for their lives. In LA, the 
odds of prosecution are effectively zero.

Since 2000, there have been no charges for the more than 1,500 shootings 
by police 
<https://www.scpr.org/news/2018/01/10/79649/la-county-had-78-police-shootings-in-2017/> 
in the county. Since the district attorney Jackie Lacey was elected in 
2012, roughly 400 people have been killed by on-duty officers or died in 
custody, according to Black Lives Matter LA. Lacey even declined to file 
charges when the chief of the LA police department (LAPD) called for the 
prosecution 
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-police/los-angeles-prosecutors-decline-to-charge-police-officer-in-deadly-2015-shooting-idUSKCN1GK38A> 
of one of his own officers.

“It really greenlights this type of behavior,” said Melina Abdullah, a 
BLM organizer in LA. “Police don’t have to care about anybody’s life, 
especially if they’re black or brown or poor.”

Abdullah and other activists are part of the Justice Teams Network 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/01/police-violence-black-lives-matter-justice-teams-network>, 
which provides “rapid response” after killings. They go to the scenes, 
interview witnesses, offer the family assistance with press and 
funerals, and work to counter the police narratives.

On a recent afternoon, Abdullah took the Guardian to sites of police 
killings in south LA. One stop was a quiet alley where three years 
earlier, LAPD officers had killed Redel Jones, a 30-year-old woman who 
had a kitchen knife and was fleeing police.

Jones, who had struggled on and off with homelessness, loved web design, 
dancing, cartoon shows, electronic music and rap and had a “brain that 
was always moving”, said Marcus Vaughn, Jones’s husband, recounting 
their dream of traveling in a mobile home together.

Headlines 
<https://abc7.com/news/armed-woman-shot-by-police-in-crenshaw-district/925223/>, 
however, reduced her to a “suspect” wanted for a robbery. And two years 
later, Lacey, the prosecutor, reduced her case to a statistic, clearing 
the policeman with her standard finding of “lawful self-defense”. The 
district attorney’s office declined an interview request.

“They did not care about Redel. Her death was one less black person. How 
are you just gonna kill a woman like she just meant nothing?” said 
Vaughn, adding that Jones was less than five feet tall and had bipolar 
disorder and depression, but was not violent. “If she was a short little 
white woman, they would’ve treated her with so much tenderness.”

Abdullah said she felt an obligation to organize after each killing and 
a sense of relief when a day passed without a death. Standing near the 
site of Jones’s killing, she was pained to see a makeshift altar had 
disappeared and vowed to rebuild it.

Jones didn’t get justice, Abdullah said, but she is hoping her next 
cases could be different.


    ‘Your aim was to murder my child’

When Quintus Moore saw a TV report saying LAPD officers had shot someone 
inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall, he said he felt sad a man had 
died for no good reason. Later, it dawned on him that he hadn’t heard 
from his son since the day before.

After a series of frantic messages to each other, a visit to the mall 
and a call with the morgue, the family discovered that their worst fears 
were true: Grechario Mack was the victim.

It was supposed to be a celebratory month for Mack. He had been released 
from prison on 5 April, five days before the killing, and the family had 
gathered for a “welcome home” party. Mack had had mental health 
struggles and past run-ins with the law, and, according to his parents, 
he was on new medication that was negatively affecting him.

Moore said his son had seemed agitated the morning of his death, and 
that he might have been paranoid or anxious and holding the knife to 
feel safe.

The LAPD’s report said Mack appeared to be having a “mental health 
crisis” and was “aggressively waving a long knife”. Police alleged he 
ignored commands and “ran in the direction” of patrons, leading to the 
shooting. Two officers fired at him, according to one report.

Abdullah, the BLM organizer, rushed to the mall, located in a black 
neighborhood and just a few blocks from Redel Jones’s killing. She said 
mall employees told her that Mack had been talking to himself and seemed 
unwell, but was not attacking anyone.

One employee of a nearby store, who declined to give her name, told the 
Guardian she walked within 10ft of Mack, who did not scare her: “He was 
just standing there … It wasn’t such a big knife.”

Blurry videos <https://twitter.com/jeffnguyen/status/983909776852533249> 
from witnesses captured 
<https://twitter.com/MarcusSmithKTLA/status/983886171674632193> heavily 
armed officers surrounding Mack and firing a handful of loud shots. 
Screams echoed throughout the mall as shoppers ducked for cover and ran. 
When investigators arrived, he was surrounded by shattered glass.

The county’s autopsy said Mack suffered at least five gunshot wounds, 
including one in his back just below his head.

“It’s like they got some kind of mandate to kill our black young men,” 
said Moore, who wears his son’s ashes in a pendant around his neck.

Mack’s mother compared the killing to a lynching: “They only went from 
the noose to the gun … Who gives them the right to be the executioner 
and the judge?”

Abdullah helped Mack’s family organize a vigil. There, she met Fouzia 
Almarou, who had more bad news: police had just shot and killed her son, 
Kenneth Ross, in a park 10 miles south of the mall, one day after Mack’s 
killing.

Police have provided few details about the killing in the LA suburb of 
Gardena. Lt Steve Prendergast told the Guardian that officers were 
responding to calls of shots fired and ended up chasing Ross, 25, whom 
they considered a suspect and was “running away from the scene”.

Prendergast said there was a “gun found at the scene”, but he couldn’t 
say whether Ross owned it or had pointed it. One police report said Ross 
briefly hid in a bathroom and that police shot him with an AR-15 rifle 
after he exited. That report said the gun had been in his pocket.

The county’s official autopsy said he was shot multiple times, including 
in the back.

Almarou said her son, who leaves behind seven younger siblings and a 
four-year-old son, had bipolar disorder and schizophreniabut was well 
known to local residents as harmless.

“Why did they shoot him in the back?” she said. “Your aim was to murder 
my child.”

At the vigil, Almarou ended up finding somecomfort from Mack’s family, 
who later donated money to Ross’s funeral.


    ‘We can’t treat mental illness with murder’

California is considered the strictest state in the US 
<http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-me-california-police-discipline-secret-20180815-story.html> 
for police confidentiality, with policies that have kept misconduct 
records hidden 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-police-misconduct-secrecy-federal-20180810-htmlstory.html> 
and, critics say, created a culture that condones excessive force.

“It allows the most abusive officers to continue to operate,” said 
George Galvis, executive director of Communities United for Restorative 
Youth Justice, which co-sponsored legislation 
<http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-lb-803-46437-la-pol-ca-police-records-bill-advances-20180816-htmlstory.html> 
to increase transparency. Another bill 
<https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/08/california-police-killed-162-people-ab931-bill-lethal-force-1/> 
would stipulate that police could only use deadly force when 
“necessary”, instead of the current “reasonable” standard. The move, he 
said, would encourage police to treat people of color the way they often 
respond to white suspects – de-escalate the situation and work to keep 
them alive.

LAPD has adopted policies 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-lapd-use-of-force-20180605-story.html> 
meant to encourage police to defuse tense situations, but critics say 
the reforms aren’t working and aren’t enough.

“We can’t treat mental illness with murder,” said Tabatha Jones Jolivet, 
another BLM organizer.

Amid calls for prosecution and legislation, it can be hard for families 
to keep the spotlight on their loved ones’ lives when their story 
becomes their death.

Mack, known as Chario, was an honor roll student who graduated high 
school early, his mother said. He loved to fish and was fiercely 
protective of family. His nine-year-old daughter wrote a tribute saying 
she would miss piggyback rides and museum trips, adding: “I know that 
you’re always in my heart.”

Arianna Moore, Mack’s sister, said her brother motivated her to be 
courageous: “He would tell me, ‘You could do anything you put your mind 
to.’”

Vaughn, Redel Jones’s husband, said he and their children sometimes 
struggled to remember what her voice sounded like. His nine-year-old 
daughter often wakes in the middle of the night shaking after a 
nightmare watching her mother die. She fears the police.

Ross, an avid skateboarder, was so generous, his mother recalled, that 
as a child he gave his allowance money to homeless people: “His heart 
was amazing.”

Ross’s mother said she was a survivor of domestic violence and that her 
son took care of her.

When times were tough, she said, her son offered the same message of 
comfort: “You’ll always have me to take care of you.”

-- 
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863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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