Residents Urge Action Against Police ‘Atrocity’
Fifty-five residents of a South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood who claim their apartments were stormed and ransacked by police challenged Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner on Tuesday to bring charges against the officers.
With the statute of limitations running out next week, the residents told of being terrorized and beaten by Los Angeles police officers who stormed their apartments last August. Police said they believed the buildings were havens for drug activity.
Damage to the duplexes on Dalton Avenue, just west of the Coliseum, was so extensive that the Red Cross provided emergency food and shelter to the four families that lived there.
At a news conference in front the buildings, residents and their attorneys said prosecutors have only until Aug. 1 to file criminal charges.
Attorney George V. Denny called on Reiner’s office to take action, claiming that the police officers were “guilty of atrocities” against his clients.
“Or are the political pressures to stonewall and whitewash the incident just too great for you to withstand?” Denny asked rhetorically.
Reiner was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. But Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Darden, the prosecutor in charge of special investigations in Reiner’s office, said a decision on whether to file criminal misdemeanor charges against any of the officers involved would be made before the end of the week.
“I have literally reviewed the conduct of each and every officer at the scene,” Darden said. “If we find it proper to file misdemeanor charges, we’ll file before the end of the week. If not, we won’t.”
To date, 28 of the 88 officers who participated in the raid have been disciplined for misconduct ranging from lying to police investigators to damaging personal property--the largest number ever disciplined at one time as the result of an internal LAPD inquiry. Disciplinary action against these officers included suspensions and loss of pay.
In addition, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said that nine others have been scheduled to appear before a departmental tribunal and could ultimately be fired or given six-month suspensions without pay.
The lengthy district attorney’s investigation has led victims’ attorneys to express doubts whether prosecutors are vigorously pursuing the controversial case.
“We are concerned that even if there is a prosecution, it will be a token effort and not pursued in good faith,” victims’ attorney Gary Casselman said.
“The district attorney, I’m certain, will give all kinds of assurances that this will be a fair-minded and tough prosecution,” Casselman added. “But why did it take 51 weeks and a press conference to dislodge him?”
Civil Rights Suit
Meanwhile, a civil rights suit has been filed in federal court in Los Angeles contending that some of the officers kicked and punched the victims, broke windows, tore open plaster ceilings and walls, and overturned kitchen and other appliances.
Two additional damage suits have been filed on behalf of owners of the two apartment buildings.
Among the alleged victims was Johnnie Mae Carter, 61, who claims that her four children were roughed up and arrested during the raid only to be released later without charges being filed against them.
She said one of her sons was handcuffed behind his back and forced to lie in the front yard with his face pressed against dog feces.
Another son, 22-year-old Edward Carter, told reporters at the news conference that he was handcuffed behind his back and then kicked in the head and ribs.
At one point in the raid, Carter said, “an officer pointed at a cockroach and said he would make me eat it if I didn’t stop looking at him.”
In all, 33 people were taken into custody but ultimately only two teen-agers were prosecuted, both for possession of drugs.