By Doug Porter
A shocking confrontation caught on video involving a mentally ill homeless man in Los Angeles who was gunned down as police tried to evict him from a street-side tent is getting nationwide news coverage.
The Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times and of course the Los Angeles Times all covered the story. But you’ll have to dig to find it at UT-San Diego. It’s not in the today’s edition. (You can find it online if the paper’s search engine is working.)
This video cuts to the chase on three major issues facing this country; how we treat the mentally ill, our homeless population and the willingness of police to use firepower over brain power.
WARNING: Extreme violence and language.
From what I’ve been able to piece together from the various accounts, there were two calls made to the Los Angeles police just after mid-day. One concerned a nearby robbery. The other may have involved a fight over a tent set up along the street.
The dead man, known on the street by the name “Africa,” was not a suspect, but this explains the number of police (seven) at the scene. Witnesses told the Los Angeles Times that police had stopped by several times earlier in the day ordering the man to take down his tent.
Because Los Angeles does not have adequate facilities to house the homeless, a court order allows them to camp in the area known as Skid Row from 9pm until 6am.
From the Los Angeles Times:
When Africa refused to comply with a police order to come out of the tent, officers used the Taser on him and dragged him out, Horne said. The officers tackled Africa to the ground, where he continued to fight, which led to the fatal shooting, according to Horne.
“It’s sad,” Horne said. “There’s no justification to take somebody’s life.”
Another witness, Lonnie Franklin, 53, said five to six officers pulled up in three to four cars as Africa was lying face down on the sidewalk. The officers approached with guns drawn yelling, ”Down, down,” according to Franklin.
When Africa got up and started fighting, the officers “went straight to lethal force,” Franklin said.
Here’s what I found on Huffington Post:
The video shows a confrontation in which the homeless man appears to throw a punch at police as officers try to contain him. One officer drops his nightstick, which a woman picks up off the ground. Two officers push her to the ground to restrain her. Meanwhile, several officers fight the man to the ground. At least one officer can be heard repeatedly shouting, “Drop the gun,” after which five gunshots can be heard.
One witness, Yolanda Young, told CBS2 that the altercation occurred over an argument in a tent.
“Next thing I know, dude swung on a cop and the cop swung back. And they were hitting on him and then two other cop cars pulled up and they got out of the car and ran over there, and they had three Tasers out,” Young said.
Africa had spent 10 years at a mental facility before settling into Skid Row four or five months ago, neighbor Ina Murphy told the LA Times. Another resident also said that police had asked Africa multiple times to dismantle his tent, in accordance with a court ruling that allows folks to sleep on Skid Row at night as long as they take down their tents during the day.
The Associated Press account of the story included the following:
Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said the independent inspector general and the district attorney had all begun investigating the incident.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, head of the activist group the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called on the Police Commission to hold special hearing on use of force by officers in Skid Row encounters.
Hutchinson said in a statement that the shooting “underscores the need for the police commission to hold a special hearing to fully examine police tactics and training in the use of deadly force by LAPD officers involving skid row residents many of whom have major mental challenges.”
Shawn King, who has been writing extensively about police shootings in recent months, put this latest shooting into the context that he and many other Black Americans see these incidents:
Brian Beaird, a mentally ill war veteran with a traumatic brain injury, didn’t have a gun.
Antonio Zambrano-Montes didn’t have a gun. He was throwing rocks.
Lavall Hall didn’t have a gun. He had a red broom.
Kristina Coignard, a mentally ill teenage girl, didn’t have a gun.
A Denver teenage girl, Jessie Hernandez, didn’t have a gun.
Jerame Reid didn’t have a gun.
James Boyd, living in Albuquerque mountains and struggling with mental illness, didn’t have a gun.
This list could go on and on and on. The point is to say that police are shooting and killing men, women, boys, and girls who don’t have guns every single day in America and it’s despicable.
Our police either don’t care to find non-violent or non-lethal ways of de-escalating conflicts or just flat out don’t know how. Either way, our current system is unsustainable and is causing unprecedented levels of frustration in America that will soon boil over if not thoroughly and properly addressed.
I am making a big deal out of this not just because the local daily opted not to print this story. I am making a big deal out of this because it points to the need to change the narrative, the way we deal with humans and what is expected of police.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. The video of this shooting has been viewed over six million times.
“We” citizens have acquiesced as social issues like mental illness, drug addiction and being homeless have become criminalized over the past few decades. The criminalization comes as a consequence of a reduction of public services driven by a moral viewpoint that these afflicted people are somehow evil and/or not worth the “cost” of treating.
This “cost” is often less than actual solutions–as in the case of solving homelessness by providing housing–but the underlying disgust drilled into the mass psyche about people with big problems is like placing a thumb on the scale when it comes to weighing out solutions.
The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 24% of the incarcerated humans on the planet. (Only 20% of the penal population is incarcerated on drug charges, so there’s obviously more going on here) According to Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, the United States “imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.”
The demonizing of these human beings accompanying this push to fill our jails and prisons abetted by everyday racism has created a fear factor that all-too-often motivates police to shoot first and ask questions later. Why? That’s what “we” ask them to do.
I’ll move on to a couple of other news items…
Justice Department SDPD Report to be Released
A report by the Police Executive Research Forum commissioned by the Justice Department to examine the inner workings of the San Diego Police Department is due out “next month” according to UT-San Diego.
When the report was announced at a news conference, the police department was beset by a series of more than a dozen cases of officer misconduct, including domestic violence, drunken driving and the high-profile conviction of former Officer Anthony Arevalos for soliciting sexual favors from women he pulled over in the Gaslamp.
Officials initially described the work as an audit, and later as an assessment of the department’s internal procedures, according to emails between city officials and researchers obtained by U-T Watchdog.
Peters Leads Group to Fight for Economic Inequality
Corporate profits are at or near record levels. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed above 5,000 for the first time in 15 years this week. There are $2 trillion in profits from US companies accumulated overseas by American corporations.
So Congressman Scott Peters, according to The Hill, is among those leading the charge to fight back against “Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the ‘rigged economy.’”
“I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side.”
Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, “it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition.”
“To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision,” Peters said.
Oh boy.Those poor corporations. What will they ever do if Democrats insist they pull their weight in society?
We don’t really need “Republican Lite” as the core of the Democratic program.
Speaking of Republican Lite…
Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s ascendancy in San Diego. The Daily Fishwrap and their media partners have been busy trumpeting the mayor’s successes as a means of re-enforcing the positive messages they’ve been featuring over the past 12 months.
City Councilman Todd Gloria’s term as interim mayor has been airbrushed from the history books, so we’re all supposed to be grateful that he-who-cannot-be-named is no longer in office.
The fact is Kevin Faulconer’s done a mediocre–at best– job, hidden behind a wall of photo ops and press releases.
Tomorrow I’ll feature a report on the side of the current regime that you’re not hearing about.
On This Day: 1807 – The Congress passed an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States… from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” 1913 – Postal workers were granted an 8-hour day. 1962 – Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks 169-147. Chamberlain broke several NBA records in the game.
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