Chanting "We demand justice," about 200 angry protesters marched to California Highway Patrol regional headquarters on Vermont Avenue Friday, condemning the fatal wounding of an Inglewood man by a CHP motorcycle officer in a routine traffic stop in South-Central Los Angeles.
The demonstrators, most of them black Muslims, contend that the shooting death Tuesday of Yusuf Bilal, 38, was unwarranted and that Bilal, an off-duty RTD bus driver and Muslim, was unarmed when he was shot three times in the back by veteran CHP Officer Bruce Moats, 36.
Los Angeles police detectives, who are investigating the incident along with the CHP, tentatively concluded Friday that Moats' decision to fire was justified because Bilal had grabbed the officer's baton after being prodded with it, and was stepping out of his car, about to hit Moats.
Threats to Officer Told
Authorities who spoke on condition that they not be identified said that Bilal refused to tell Moats his address and then threatened the officer after taking his baton.
The allegation that Bilal appeared to threaten Moats was confirmed by "five or six" civilian witnesses as well as three Los Angeles police officers who happened to be cruising near the 7100 block of South Broadway, just as the curb-side confrontation erupted there, Detective Lt. William Hall said. Bilal had been stopped for allegedly running a red light.
"All the evidence that we have shows (Moats) was a victim of an ADW (assault with a deadly weapon)," said Hall, whose detectives conducted the investigation. "From all the information we have, the officer did act legally and that's the direction we're going in. It's our opinion that it is a justifiable homicide."
Hall said that Moats' baton was later found in Bilal's car.
However, two men who said they witnessed the incident told The Times Thursday that Bilal never gained control of Moats' baton and that Bilal merely tried to fend off Moats' jabs while sitting in his car.
'Shot Him Point Blank'
"(Moats) was cussing him, telling him to get out of the car," said Carlos Eduardos, 54, who said he watched the altercation from behind a light pole about 25 feet away. "He (Bilal) was gonna get out of the car, but (Moats) didn't give him a chance . . . he just shot him point blank--bam, bam, bam."
Both Eduardos and Leon Chambers, 66, who said he was watching from a coin laundry across the street, said Moats dragged Bilal out of the car.
Bilal died about an hour later at Century Hospital. Bilal had been shot in what Hall described as the "left rear quadrant" of his back.
It was the first fatal shooting involving a highway patrolman in the Los Angeles area since 1980, when a speeding suspect armed with a rifle was shot and killed on Silver Lake Boulevard after a lengthy car chase, CHP spokesman Sgt. Mark Lunn said.
As is CHP custom after on-duty shootings, Moats was taken out of the field pending the outcome of an administrative investigation. The 13-year veteran has been reassigned to desk duties at the Highway Patrol's office in Torrance, Lunn said.
March to Protest Site
On Friday, protesters assembled in front of the Islamic Center of California at 434 S. Vermont Ave. to march about a mile north to the CHP's administrative offices. Once there, the group's chief speaker, Abdul-Karim Damisalaam, stood on the front steps and praised Bilal as a martyr.
"Yusuf is dead just as hundreds of other blacks in Watts and the ghetto have been killed," Damisalaam, 48, said. "Now we want (authorities) to use their laws as they have been used against us."
"Allahu akbar!" (God is great), the crowd responded.
Highway Patrol officials did not acknowledge the presence of the boisterous demonstrators, remaining inside throughout the 30-minute demonstration while a squad of Los Angeles policemen guarded the building's rear parking lot.
Bilal is to be buried today at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. A graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, and an RTD driver since August, 1982, he is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and three children.
Times staff writer Boris Yaro contributed to this story.