Despite a tearful plea from the mother of a young woman shot to death this summer at a Taco Bell drive-up window, the City Council reversed itself this week and rescinded an ordinance requiring such fast-food restaurants to put armed guards in their parking lots.
The 4-1 vote for repeal came less than 24 hours after another person, Gabriel Hernandez, 20, of Lynwood, was shot and killed as he ordered food at the drive-up window of the McDonald's on South Long Beach Boulevard. A suspect in the Monday night slaying, Ronell Anthony Ray, 22, is being held in the Compton jail.
Killed by Gunman
"It won't bring my daughter back but it may save someone else's daughter or granddaughter," said Pat Palardy, whose daughter, Lorie Ann, 17, was killed by a gunman who was trying to rob her and her boyfriend.
"Think about your kids," said Mrs. Palardy, who lives in Lynwood.
Jimmy Brown of Compton, the father of Lorie Ann's boyfriend, also tried to persuade council members not to rescind the ordinance they passed during an emergency session Aug. 19. In addition to Lorie Ann's slaying at the Taco Bell, two other customers have been wounded recently in robbery attempts at the same McDonald's where Hernandez was killed Monday night. That restaurant has an armed security guard, but he stays inside the building.
Passed on 4-0 Vote
The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Maxey D. Filer, was originally passed on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Robert L. Adams absent. Business owners and their representatives, some of whom spoke at Tuesday night's council meeting, immediately began complaining that it was unfair to make them hire armed guards when they pay taxes to support a police department that is supposed to provide protection.
Adams had persuaded his colleagues to put the newly adopted ordinance, giving restaurant owners 30 days to hire armed guards, back on the council's agenda for discussion.
In leading the vote to rescind the ordinance, Adams said that shooting deaths are not occurring every day in Compton and that there are other places in the world where violence is much more prevalent.
"This (ordinance) would indicate a weakness in our Police Department if we start putting security guards in our businesses," Adams said.
Mayor Walter R. Tucker agreed to switch his vote, along with council members Floyd A. James and Jane D. Robbins.
Robbins expressed concern that the city might be liable for the actions of any such armed guard.
"What we as a city ought to be doing is cleaning up the streets around those places, the prostitutes, the drug addicts and the other people that are causing these problems," Robbins said.
James said he worried that "if we move too hastily (in requiring guards) we might cause injury to businesses."
The only member voting to retain the ordinance was Filer, who argued that there is legal precedent to require businesses to hire security guards and that the city would not be held liable for the guards' actions.
"We have to think about the people," Filer said. "I hope we protect them as much as we are protecting about 15 businesses." There are, according to city planning records, 18 restaurants in Compton with drive-up windows.
The security-guard ordinance had called for guards to patrol the parking lots between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. daily. Tucker indicated he would favor an ordinance that required guards only after dark. During the meeting, however, he made no move to make such an amendment. The council agreed to discuss the problem of crime at drive-up windows at a work session in two weeks.
City Manager James Goins, who strongly favors requiring armed guards, declined to comment immediately after the vote.
Father Not Pleased
Brown, father of the slain girl's boyfriend, declined to say exactly how he felt about the vote. "If I tell you, you wouldn't print it," he said, uttering an expletive to describe the council's action.
"I cannot put my hand on it, but I got some damn good ideas. Somebody got to somebody," he charged.
Tuesday's turnaround was not the first time that the council reversed itself after making a splashy gesture toward controlling the violent crime that has claimed 62 lives in Compton this year. In August, 1987, the council passed a sweeping gun-control ordinance, even though the city attorney argued that such power was vested only in the Legislature. Two weeks later, after being lobbied by a representative of the National Rifle Assn., the same three council members switched their votes and the ordinance was rejected.