Gang Graffiti in TV Show Raises Anger

Times Staff Writer

A TV police drama that filmed a scene in Lincoln Heights featuring graffiti with the name of a real gang and the moniker of one of its members has infuriated residents, who are demanding that the scene not be included in the upcoming episode.

The graffiti on the front of a house was primarily painted by a production company artist, who inadvertently allowed a man police say is a gang member to add his moniker, said Scott Brazil, executive producer of “The Shield.”

When the production company working under contract with Fox Television Studios left the neighborhood Monday, it left the graffiti, because the homeowner said he would clean it up himself, Brazil said. A painter covered the graffiti on Thursday.

Fearing that the graffiti could lead to violence and glorify the gang on national television, some residents said they have written letters to Fox to keep the graffiti scene out.

“That somebody could come from the outside and glamorize such a dangerous problem and then leave is fundamentally hurtful and puts some very wonderful people at risk,” said June Aiello, executive director of the nearby Boys & Girls Club, which is leading the protest.

The scene also would counter community groups working to keep kids out of gangs, some residents said.

“I hope they don’t use that scene,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Lincoln Heights. “We have parents involved in anti-gang activity and here they are painting houses to make it worse.”

The show’s producers said the artist who painted the graffiti thought she was simply painting the name of a street on the house, not knowing it was also the name of a neighborhood gang. She was also unaware that the man she allowed to add his moniker to the work was a gang member.

“My sensitivity to this issue is heightened incredibly,” Brazil said. “It was never our intention to somehow glorify a local gang.”

Brazil said he did not know yet how the graffiti scene would be handled, but “both production and studio will be very sensitive in editing the piece.”

In the neighborhood where the filming occurred, two gangs have long been involved in turf wars that have resulted in numerous murders since the 1970s, said Officer Austin Fernald of the Los Angeles Police Department.

He said residents’ fears that the graffiti could lead to violence are justified in light of recent warfare between the gang whose named appeared in the graffiti scene and its main rival.

“When [nearby gangs] see things like this ... it gets them amped up and excited to be more aggressive,” Fernald said.

That was the backdrop to residents’ reactions when they saw the graffiti after filming had wrapped up.

“Any time there is more graffiti that goes up, inevitably there’s a shooting that follows,” said Ana Gallegos, one of the residents involved in the letter-writing campaign.

“The Shield” is an Emmy- and Golden Globe award-winning show that will be entering its third season on the FX cable network next year. The scene in question was supposed to take place in front of a home where a gang member might live, Brazil said.