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Shooting at Ramona Gardens

In response to your editorial “Sheriff: Questions but Few Answers” (Aug. 20), I feel compelled to offer some comments.

Relative to the fatal shooting in Ramona Gardens, it was, as all such incidents are, a tragedy for everyone involved. As for my prejudging the outcome of the investigation, let me repeat what I had said to the media about that shooting: “Based upon the information available to me at this time, it appears that the shooting was justified. The investigation, however, is still under way.”

As for the Keith Hamilton shooting, I was quoted correctly as to my comment regarding the statement of the witness that he saw a deputy placing what appeared to be a metallic object near or under the body. My statement that “someone either embellished what they saw or saw something that didn’t exist” was based upon information known to me in my official capacity and not yet made public. The investigators had indicated to me that the witness probably saw deputies putting on rubber gloves before they reached under the body to retrieve Hamilton’s buck knife which was still in the scabbard on his belt. No other weapons were found near the body.

As for the number of deputy-involved shootings this year, I certainly agree that the number is not a reassuring statistic. Each of those shootings are evaluated on the basis of possible criminal culpability as well as tactical and policy considerations. The fact that gang-related murders so far this year are up by about 20% over last year’s record total is likewise not a reassuring statistic.

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Why is it that some in our community, including elements of the media, seem prepared to tolerate the current level of violence being perpetrated by and between violent street criminals? Why is it so difficult to realize that with our current level of criminal violence, the incidents of violent confrontations between law enforcement officers and such criminals will inevitably increase? Our community is witnessing the reality of 24-hour-a-day combat, not in some far-off land, but right where we live.

Perhaps some of the hand-wringing, finger-pointing politicians, who show up in troubled communities only at election time or when there is an opportunity for media exposure, might reassess their priorities. Some honest introspection might reveal just how much their failure to effectively serve their constituents has contributed to the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that is so pervasive in some communities.

It would be helpful if the media would devote a little attention to the variety of positive programs that we have in place in the communities we serve. Recognizing the influence the media has in forming public opinion, I fear that they sometimes fail to give equal attention to those who, day in and day out, work hard to improve the quality of life in our community.

SHERIFF SHERMAN BLOCK

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Los Angeles County


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