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National Guard Leader Retires From State Post : Military: Thrasher says his departure is not linked to allegations that troops responded slowly to the L.A. riots.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The head of the California National Guard, which was criticized for not responding quickly enough during the Los Angeles riots, retired Friday.

Army Maj. Gen. Robert C. Thrasher, 56, said that neither his retirement nor the departure last summer of two top deputies was prompted by the controversy over the Guard’s response to last spring’s riots.

After the riots, Gov. Pete Wilson criticized the Guard’s response and said “someone’s head may very well roll.” In early June, he appointed Army Lt. Gen. William H. Harrison to head an investigation of the Guard’s preparation, response, training, deployment and organization.

At the time, Wilson said the inquiry was to be completed in four to six weeks. Harrison submitted a draft report about two weeks ago, said Kassy Perry, Wilson’s deputy communications director, but the report has not been released.

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Thrasher said that “when everything is put into perspective,” the deployment time of the Guard during the riots was unmatched.

He said that he had submitted his retirement papers months before the riots but that the governor’s office had asked him to stay on the job. He assumed the post in 1987 to oversee the 27,000-member Guard in California.

“I can tell you categorically the governor has never called me or condemned me or personally criticized me or asked for my resignation in any shape or form,” Thrasher said in an interview.

Perry confirmed that Thrasher’s departure was not connected to the riots and noted that the governor had asked Thrasher to stay on until he could find a replacement.

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So far, Wilson has not appointed a successor to Thrasher, who said he earns about $100,000 a year from the state. Thrasher announced that the acting head of the Guard will be Brig. Gen. Robert Barrow.

Thrasher confirmed that two top deputies, Brig. Gens. Dan Brennan and James D. Delk, also left the Guard last summer. He said Delk reached the mandatory retirement age of 60 and Brennan took advantage of an early retirement offer to state employees.

“I can tell you that nobody was asked to leave by the governor’s office,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher, who enlisted in the Guard in 1955, said he plans to serve as a consultant to a Sacramento developer, handling lobbying and public relations.

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