UNDERSTANDING THE RIOTS / PART 3 : WITNESS TO RAGE : MEAN STREETS : ‘I took the beds because we sleep on the floor.’

Octavio Sandoval, <i> 17, is a junior at Manual Arts High School in South-Central Los Angeles. He lives with his four brothers and two sisters. </i>

On Wednesday, my friends and I went cruising around. On Thursday, that’s when I went to a furniture store. Two friends were with me. We went to Hi Brite Furniture Store, right near here on the corner.

I saw everybody getting things, so I said, “It seemed like fun” so I started doing it. We walked home with three beds--cars even stopped for us as we went across the street. The guys I was with didn’t want anything but they helped me carry the beds. Walking down the sidewalk, everybody in the neighborhood was looking at us. They were looking at us mean, like they knew we were doing wrong.

When we got home, my mom and dad said we shouldn’t be doing that because the cops were going to come after us. I got bunk beds for my little brother and sister, and a bed for myself because I sleep on the floor. My brothers were happy because we had the beds. I felt I was doing something good for my family.


I have to say I did it because everybody was doing it--and it was full of police around here and they weren’t doing anything--so I said, “Well, if I have a chance now to get my bed, I’m going to take it.”

I don’t know the people who own that business, but I didn’t think I would be hurting their business because they have insurance, which will pay for everything.

I didn’t feel like I was stealing or breaking the law because the police were right there and they weren’t saying anything about it. They were seeing us and everything and they weren’t doing anything to stop me or came after me or asked me “Why are you taking these beds?” If the cops had said, “Put that down,” I would have put it down. By not stopping us, they allowed us to break the law.

It didn’t bother me that my own people, Latinos, were taking things. We’re accustomed to being a low minority here. So I thought, “Let us have fun while we can.” We’re considered low class. Everybody treats us like we’re low. That’s part of the reason why the looting happened. That’s why it made it easier for me to take the beds. Blacks and Latinos right here, they are considered low-class persons. So when the blacks were rioting and looting, the Latinos started doing the same thing. I guess because we’re in the lower class.

Two nights later, when my mom was saying she didn’t want to have any problems, that was when I started thinking, “In case the cops do come, that will bring some problems at home.” I was pretty sure we weren’t going to keep the beds that long because my mom started talking to me about it.

I could see that my mother was disappointed in me. In everything. I would see the way she would look at me. She never asked me why I did this. So I told my mom, “Let’s take the beds to the nearest Catholic Church.”


If I had kept the beds, there probably would have been arguments because my mom didn’t want the beds and I did. We would always have been arguing about it. Since the beds are gone, we haven’t talked about it all. They’re gone. It’s a dead subject.

I think the neighbors are probably disappointed in me. In a way it makes me feel bad, but in another way, I really don’t care. Why care about the neighbors? I don’t care about the neighbors. I care about myself and my family. I took the beds because I care about my family and I returned them for the same reason: I care about my family.

How did this change me? I don’t know. I’m a troublemaker. I’ve always been a troublemaker. Since the riots, I do feel much safer now that I’m more at home than in the streets. I feel I don’t need to be in the streets as much.

I’ve never stolen stuff before. I’m not sure if I would do it again. I’m not sure. I probably won’t. If people found out I’m taking stuff, they probably would call the cops and it would just bring the family trouble and problems. I want to have an honorable family.

This is the first time I talk about this. In a way, talking about it helps me understand this better. I’m learning other things. What have I learned? Stealing ain’t good.

If looters have a chance to take the things back, I would say for them to do it now that they have a chance and before the cops get to them because they might go to jail. It’s not a good thing to be in jail.


When I took the beds, I wasn’t working. But two days after I took the beds, I started working at Taco Bell. This week, I’ve been working there from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Working is a solution. If working can give you the money to buy whatever you want, why steal? Now that I have a job I won’t have to worry about stealing anything. I’m going to have some money in my pocket on May 21 with my first paycheck. I’m going to give some to my mom and some for myself. I’ll probably open my own bank account and the first thing I want to save for are beds.