Opinion: Training day
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So, the other night in Skid Row a guy points a handgun in the general direction of my brains and yells ‘BOOM!! BOOM!!’ And then the story really gets weird.
I had been driving with a colleague eastbound on 6th a little after 7 p.m. and about to head through an intersection a few blocks west of Alameda when I noticed what I took to be a homeless guy at the other end of the intersection walking slowly through a red light (a common appearance at night downtown). My mind worked in reverse order of usefulness -- first I noticed he was yelling, then I noticed he had also been pointing at us, and by the time I noticed what he had been pointing (looked like a Glock; see illustration), he had put his arm down and headed unhurriedly toward the south side of 6th. Where, incidentally, a handful of uniformed cops were excitedly wrestling down a civilian on the sidewalk, while another lay prone on the ground, next to a car that was parked askance in the crosswalk. It was a tense scene, and I drove away as soon as I could.
Cut to the next day. I called the Central Bureau of the LAPD (which is just two blocks from the scene of the incident, by the way), just to add my small eyewitness bit to whatever crimes had been reported and apprehended, and after more than a half-dozen transfers I got a friendly detective who noticed that, yep, there had been a use-of-force incident at 6th and San Julian at around 7:15 p.m. Not only that, but it involved three undercover officers. He encouraged me to come down to the station and file a report. So I did, basically telling the desk guy what I mentioned here, plus a few descriptive details.
Then, just after I walked through my front door last night, the phone rings. Thinking it’s a telemarketer, I snap ‘What the hell do you want!’ (Things have been tense lately.) The guy (much more polite than me!) says he’s sorry to be a bother, but he’s calling from the police station downtown. And he really really wants to know -- are you alleging that an undercover officer brandished his weapon at you?
I was asked to re-trace my communications with the department that day, which officer told me what, and whether it was my contention that an undercover officer pointed a gun at me. I explained that -- not being a policeman -- I had no way of knowing who an undercover cop might be at any given time, and that the first time I ever even thought of that word came when the detective mentioned it to me in passing on the phone the day after the incident.
Yes, but it’s very important that we make this clear -- you are not at this time saying it was an undercover agent who pointed his gun at you?
I eventually satisfied him (while pointing out that the whole business sounded bizarre to me), and we hung up. And that’s where it stands ... for now.
It has been suggested to me that the LAPD was just doing its darndest to err on the side of making sure that even the slimmest possibility of a complaint against an officer is pursued to its fullest extent, and indeed that sounds like the most plausible explanation (and if so, hat’s off to ‘em for it). I am also, as always, open to more conspiratorial explanations.
So I’m checking the wires and the otherwise handy LAPD crime map for any news about the evening of April 4 -- nothing so far, though maybe I don’t know exactly where to look -- and trying to avoid thinking too hard about why a physically healthy-looking man in civvies would stroll slowly and confidently across a red light of a busy intersection toward the scene of uniformed cop beat-down, semi-automatic in his right hand, pointing it randomly at cars, yelling loudly, and appearing totally unconcerned about being caught.