2 Charged Under New Terrorist Threat Law

Times Staff Writer

For the first time, Los Angeles city prosecutors are combatting the weapon they say makes gang members both more dangerous and harder to catch: intimidation.

On Thursday, the city attorney’s office announced it has used a new state law to charge two alleged gang members with threatening the lives of law enforcement officers in two unrelated incidents.

Tommie Thomas, 28, of Compton and Derek Maurice Durham, 29, of South-Central Los Angeles face the misdemeanor charges contained in a provision of the newly enacted Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act.

Organized Crime


Prosecutors describe the street terrorism act as a comprehensive package of new civil and criminal laws designed to combat street gangs as a form of organized crime.

Prosecutors say police officers will not be the only ones who feel safer because of the new law.

“We have witnesses that are very reluctant to testify because they are intimidated by gang members,” Deputy City Atty. Franco Baratta said.

Gangs “have an element of terror in their modus operandi, " he said.

Before the new legislation became effective late last year, there was little police could do to help people protect themselves from threats of death or violence, Deputy City Atty. Bruce Coplen said. Frequently, police did not have the manpower to get involved until a crime had been committed, but now the threat itself can be prosecuted, he said.

Hand Sign

Prosecutors said Thomas threatened a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on Christmas Eve at the Men’s Central Jail. Awaiting trial on grand theft charges, Thomas allegedly flashed a gang hand sign at the deputy and said, “It’s the last thing you’ll see in the back window of your car before you hear ‘booya, booya.’ ”

“Booya” is gang slang for gunfire.

Durham allegedly threatened a Los Angeles police officer and his family Nov. 29 at the Southwest Division Station while being booked for allegedly refusing to cooperate with officers during a routine traffic stop.

According to prosecutors, Durham allegedly said: “If I see your kids or your wife, I’ll kill them both, and when you come to try and stop me, I’ll kill you. Even if I see you on the street, you better be ready, because I’m going to do you on or off duty.”

City Atty. James K. Hahn said Durham’s threat especially had to be taken seriously, because “investigators have determined that Durham does have knowledge about the officer and his family members.”

Durham was charged Dec. 28, pleaded innocent Tuesday and faces trial Feb. 7. He is free on bail. Thomas, who is still in custody, was charged Thursday and faces arraignment in Los Angeles Municipal Court on Monday.

If convicted, they face up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.