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Group Raises Racial Angle in Deputy’s Death : Probe: Urban League urges further investigation of black officer’s shooting by colleague.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Sheriff’s Deputy Darryn Leroy Robins, who died at the hand of a fellow officer, cannot “rest in peace” until questions about the bizarre Christmas Day shooting are answered, the president of the Orange County chapter of the Urban League declared Thursday.

Calling on state and national authorities to join in the investigation, George Williams criticized the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for failing to address public safety issues and concerns that race may have played a role in the fatal shooting of Robins.

Robins is black. The deputy who shot him is white.

“We therefore ask that appropriate officials at the community, state and the national levels intervene by taking the necessary steps that will make detailed

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true facts surrounding the mysterious, callous and senseless death of deputy sheriff Darryn Leroy Robins public information,” said Williams, who joined a mostly black group of parents, educators and ministers Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Alicante in Garden Grove. “We feel that this is a preliminary need that will greatly serve to heal the pain that has been wrought in this experience.”

Robins, 30, and fellow deputy, Brian P. Scanlan, 32, were running through an informal training session behind a Lake Forest movie theater when Scanlan fired, striking Robins in the face.

Sources have said Robins--playing the role of a driver during a traffic stop--may have reached for a weapon in his car visor and that Scanlan reacted by grabbing a gun, which was loaded.

Sheriff Brad Gates has declined to comment since the shooting, and top sheriff’s officials have refused to release even basic information about department policy or training techniques. As is routine, the Sheriff’s Department turned the shooting investigation over to the Orange County district attorney’s office. Investigators have declined to comment on the ongoing probe.

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Sources close to the investigation, along with Scanlan’s relatives, have described the shooting as a tragic accident that had nothing to do with race. Many described the deputies as close friends.

But Williams said the sheriff’s refusal to publicly explain what happened has left many to speculate. And he said Scanlan’s background, which includes a pending lawsuit alleging Scanlan has “demonstrated propensity” for “racial bigotry, violence and harassment,” has raised serious concerns and demands for prompt answers about the deputy’s death.

Robins’ funeral is at 10 a.m. today at First Church of God in Inglewood, with burial following at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“It is extremely difficult to envision him able to rest in peace with a cloud of doubt still lingering around what transpired Christmas Day,” Williams said. “I think and I believe that you will agree that he earned our concern and caring as to how expeditiously this cloud will be banished.”

Williams asked of the investigation: “How long does it take when there are only two people involved?” He said he will wait a “reasonable period” for his questions to be answered before contacting “appropriate civil rights agencies” to get involved.

Aside from the Urban League, which has received numerous phone calls from concerned residents, others are questioning how the shooting could occur.

“If you’re so reflexive that you’d shoot an officer in what you know is a training exercise, what are you going to do to the average person on the street?” civil rights attorney Christopher B. Mears said in an interview Thursday.

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Barry Lathan, who represents African American Parents of South Orange County, said the shooting has been especially painful because Robins last month addressed a group of parents and children concerned that black youths were being harassed by sheriff’s deputies in South County.

While Robins told the group he had not seen evidence of such discrimination, the deputy gave an inspirational talk to youngsters about how he turned his own life around with the guidance of a police officer, Lathan said.

Williams also described Robins as a man of integrity and a positive role model for youths.

“It is unfortunate that Deputy Robins cannot be in our midst to . . . give his version of what happened to satisfy our need to know,” he said.


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