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Obituaries

Mike Moulin, key police figure during L.A. riots, dies at 70

Mike Moulin, a former Los Angeles police lieutenant who came under fire for failing to quell the first outbreak of rioting after the Rodney King beating verdict, has died. He was 70.

Moulin’s daughter, Lee Moulin, confirmed Monday that her father died July 30 at a Santa Monica hospital after a brief illness.

Moulin was in charge of officers at an intersection in South Los Angeles when rioting began April 29, 1992, following the acquittal of four officers in the King beating. When the angry crowd grew and the violence spiraled out of control, Moulin ordered his outnumbered officers to retreat.

Then-Chief Daryl F. Gates said the absence of police officers on the streets emboldened rioters and led the violence to spread. Days of unrest resulted in more than 50 deaths, more than 2,000 injuries and roughly $1 billion in property damage.

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Facing criticism for his department’s slow response as the rioting began, Gates singled out Moulin and said the lieutenant should have returned his officers to the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. Moulin insisted he made the right call and kept his officers from having to use deadly force. He sued Gates to clear his name and alleged the Los Angeles Police Department did little to prepare for possible rioting.

“We would have had 25 dead police officers and several hundred dead citizens, and you would have been talking about real chaos,” Moulin told the New York Times. “There was no correct decision to make.”

A photographer for the Times who was attacked at the intersection credits Moulin for rescuing him from the chaos and getting him medical treatment.

“If he told the officers to stay, it would have been a very different riot,” Bart Bartholomew said. “There was a real danger to me, it seemed like the only logical order to make at that time.”

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The Webster Commission, which studied the LAPD response to the riots, concluded that no specific riot plan was in place and sharply criticized Gates for leaving police headquarters as the riots began to attend a political event.

The Webster report cited “the poor state of city-wide and departmental emergency preparedness and the almost complete breakdown of command, control, communications and intelligence at the onset of the April firestorm. These fundamental failures preordained the inadequate level of the department’s general response in the field.”

After the riots, Moulin retired and moved to Mexico, where he worked as a private security consultant.

“He really loved serving the community where the riots happened,” his daughter said. “He loved the people who worked there. It was always important for him to be on the side of the little guy.”

Moulin is also survived by his wife, Norma Valles, daughter Brenda Rodriguez and two granddaughters. A memorial is planned for Thursday.


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