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Questions About a Shooting : Sheriff Block will want to get to the bottom of Ramona Gardens incident

The shooting at the Ramona Gardens public housing project in East Los Angeles raises many questions. There are conflicting reports from the deputies and residents. Only one fact is absolute: Arturo Jimenez, a 19-year-old gang member, is dead.

Why were the deputies at the project? The buildings are situated within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department and are adjacent to an area patrolled by the county Sheriff’s Department. Deputies are allowed to pursue suspects from their jurisdiction into other areas, but it’s not yet clear whether a chase took place. The release of radio transmissions could establish the facts.

What happened once the deputies were inside Ramona Gardens? The deputies have said they were leaving the area when one was hit by a bottle and challenged by a resident. Jimenez allegedly took a deputy’s flashlight and knocked him unconscious.

There is no question that a deputy suffered a head injury and required stitches. There are questions, however, as to the exact circumstances of that injury. Investigations by the Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office should--and must--answer those questions. Only if those probes fail to resolve the doubts should serious attention be given to the calls for a civilian inquiry.

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Do pending allegations against the deputy who shot Jimenez bear any relevance to this shooting? That deputy has been accused of belonging to a racist white group before he was transferred from the Lynwood station. He has also been named in a police brutality lawsuit that alleges excessive use of force. Not one of the allegations has been proven. Given the sensitive nature of those charges, however, should he have been assigned to a gang patrol in a predominantly Latino neighborhood?

Sheriff Sherman Block will want these questions answered fully. Leaders of the Latino community deserve credit for demanding answers. Ramona Gardens resident leaders deserve praise for chasing outside agitators away and helping keep the peace. They also deserve to know whether this shooting could have been prevented.


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