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Trial Scheduled for Resident in Feud That Has Plagued a Neighborhood

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A long-running neighborhood dispute in Sunland that has resulted in accusations of racial discrimination, mail threats and a gunshot attack on one family’s house, will be played out later this year in a San Fernando courtroom.

Joe Brown, who is white, allegedly fired shots into the home of his black neighbor, Michael Evans, 34, after an argument last year. Brown, facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 25, authorities said.

The legal case could be the final chapter in the dispute that had disrupted the working-class neighborhood in the 10100 block of Jardine Avenue for at least four years.

Evans said at a news conference Friday that he was forced to move out of his modest two-bedroom house and that he lost his wife and his job as a painter because of stress. He alleged that the stress was brought on by a racially motivated harassment campaign conducted by Brown and another neighbor, Ray Kobeski, who also is white.

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“It’s prejudice, racism to the max,” Evans said.

His eyes filled with tears as he described various acts of vandalism to his cars, including BB pellets fired at windows, and oil and water squirted inside the cars.

A former neighbor, Rick Peth, who is white, said he had heard some of the neighbors shouting racial slurs at Evans.

But Kobeski, Brown’s wife, Linda, and other neighbors denied that they had harassed Evans. They complained to a neighborhood crime-watch group that he was operating an illegal car repair business in his yard. The vehicles, in various states of disrepair, took up scarce street parking spaces.

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“It just looked like a junkyard around his house,” Kobeski said.

“He’s making things up as far as I can see,” he said. “The police stopped him because he was repairing cars in his home and it was illegal. He was operating a business.”

Evans and his brother, Elliott, said they bought old cars at junkyards and restored them as a hobby. Michael Evans said his life has been a nightmare since he bought the house for $85,000 in 1985 and moved into it with his wife, Maria Teresa Evans, and her 16-year-old son.

Shots were fired into Evans’ house in July of last year after a fistfight broke out between Brown and Evans. Evans said Brown accused him of stealing a tool. But Linda Brown said Evans attacked her husband because he was playing his car radio too loud.

“He got my husband in trouble,” she said. Joe Brown was unavailable for comment.

After the fight, Evans said, Brown “reappeared in front of my house and was holding a shotgun.”

After shouting a racial slur, Brown fired 10 rounds over Evans’ head, and some of the shots went through a bedroom wall, Evans said.

Evans said that after the incident he feared for his life and could not work because of the stress. He said he received several threats through the mail warning him to move out of the neighborhood.

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He later was fired from his job for absenteeism and his wife left him because she also feared for her life, Evans said.

“Now I’ve lost everything,” he said. “My house was foreclosed on and I’ve been homeless for six months. I just want help. I’ve never done nothing to nobody.”

Friday’s news conference was held in Evans’ behalf by the Equal Rights Congress, a civil rights organization that primarily investigates police harassment charges, spokeswoman Geri Silva said.


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