Newsletter: Essential California: L.A.’s tragic surge in deadly violence

Police tape with a police officer in the background.
Los Angeles is on track to record more than 300 homicides in a single year.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Oct. 29, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Amid economic upheaval and an ongoing pandemic, Los Angeles is approaching a tragic threshold of violence not seen in a decade: The city is on track to record more than 300 homicides in a single year.

As of Wednesday, there had been 274 killings in the city, and LAPD Chief Michel Moore has said he expects that number to surpass 300 by the end of the year.

The causes “are complex and varied — and some sadly familiar,” according to my colleagues Kevin Rector and Nicole Santa Cruz. They report that more than half of the nearly 80 homicides in Central Los Angeles through the end of last month were suspected of being gang-related, and more than 30 involved victims who were experiencing homelessness. More than a quarter of the 81 killings in the department’s South Bureau were suspected of being gang-related — with the motives in many others still unclear — and several involved homeless people.


[Read the story: “L.A.’s surge in homicides fueled by gang violence, killings of homeless people” in the Los Angeles Times]

The last time the city broke 300 homicides was in 2009, when there were 312 killings. That sum is still far below the deadly violence that transpired in decades past, as Kevin, who covers the LAPD for The Times, explained in a recent story. Some years in the 1980s and 1990s saw homicide take more than 1,000 lives, with the numbers peaking in 1992. But killings in the city have generally followed a downward trend since 2002, when there were 647.

Los Angeles is far from alone in dealing with a surge in deadly violence. As my colleague Richard Winton reported last month, a national study showed that the number of killings, while still far lower than decades ago, climbed significantly in a summer that saw 20 cities’ homicide rates jump 53% compared with the three summer months in 2019.

Here in California, Oakland, San Diego and Fresno have been among the other cities dealing with a surge in homicides.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Most evacuations have been lifted as firefighters gain control over Orange County blazes. The fierce Santa Ana winds that fueled the blazes eased significantly Tuesday, and firefighters were starting to gain the upper hand after two days of pitched battle defending subdivisions ranging from Yorba Linda to Lake Forest. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Major League Baseball says Justin Turner broke the rules by returning to the field after his positive coronavirus test. Despite being removed mid-game when officials received word of his positive test result, the Dodgers third baseman returned to celebrate with colleagues after the win. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and third baseman Justin Turner
Third baseman Justin Turner (bottom right) joins in a group picture after the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 to win the World Series.
(Associated Press)

Los Angeles public school campuses are unlikely to reopen before January, according to two school board leaders. Los Angeles Times

Meet the the COVID-19 compliance supervisor: The pandemic has spawned a new job on Hollywood sets. Los Angeles Times

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Who’s spending the most to influence your vote for California’s Legislature? More than $31 million of unrestricted political spending has been pumped into California’s Assembly and Senate races through independent expenditure committees. CalMatters

California’s most intense political campaign isn’t on your ballot. Should the Democratic ticket win the White House, Gov. Gavin Newsom will be tasked with appointing someone to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat. California Democrats are elbowing each other for the chance to sway his choice in an inside lobbying effort that requires “a delicate balance of chutzpah and diplomacy.” Politico

Former Department of Homeland Security aide Miles Taylor says he wrote the “Anonymous” New York Times op-ed blasting President Trump. Taylor, who left the administration in June, has been an outspoken critic of Trump in recent months and had repeatedly denied he was the author of the column — even to colleagues at CNN, where he has a contributor contract. Los Angeles Times


Seven bodies, nothing stolen: Were killings at a Riverside marijuana grow intended as “a message”? Los Angeles Times


San Jose leaders have nixed a plan to kill feral pigs with bows and arrows. They cited safety concerns over errant arrows and state law restrictions when quashing the proposal. Mercury News


A Latino enclave in Huntington Beach fights to preserve its heritage and raise its clout. Los Angeles Times

These tiny homes were going to help solve Sacramento’s homeless crisis. But 10 of them are currently sitting unused in a city lot. Sacramento Bee

A poem to start your Thursday: “Autumn” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Los Angeles: sunny, 80. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: partly sunny, 71. San Jose: partly sunny, 80. Fresno: sunny, 78. Sacramento: sunny, 80. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Bill Casarez:

I grew up in Hanford, Calif., and worked the fields growing up. My dad had three bobtail trucks we would load with fruit to deliver to the packing houses or the loading docks for the cannery. The day’s work was done when the fruit was delivered, most of the time after dark. My dad always told me to get an education so I wouldn’t have to work in the fields anymore. I graduated from Fresno State (first in my family) and became a CPA. Although sometimes I work long hours today, working the fields is much harder.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.