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Two more victims of the LAPD
"There was no way they wanted anyone alive"

By Gillian Russom | July 22, 2005 | Page 16

THE LOS Angeles Police Department (LAPD) killed Jose Raul Peña and his 19-month-old daughter Susie in a hail of 60 bullets July 10.

This is the latest incident in a long pattern of racist violence by the LAPD--including the February killing of 13-year-old Devin Brown, an African American boy who was shot 10 times while joyriding in a car.

The police story about why they opened fire on Peña and his daughter is full of contradictions. On July 10, Peña picked up his daughter and brought her to his car dealership in South Central Los Angeles, near Watts. Peña's stepdaughter Ilsa Depaz followed her father to the dealership, where they got into an argument, and Ilsa called 911.

Police say they learned that Peña had a gun and had fired shots before they got there. But family members and some witnesses told LA Weekly say that they heard the first "pop-pop" of gunfire after the police arrived. They say that Peña didn't fire at the neighbors, but only at police after he was cornered.

When Lorena Lopez, the baby's mother, heard the first shots, she ran to the dealership and told police, "There's a baby in there. Don't shoot!" The police told her to go home.

In less than an hour, the number of cops had swelled to about 100--with snipers stationed on the rooftops surrounding the dealership and SWAT officers at the perimeters.

At this time, Lorena Lopez's younger brother Joshua tried to get police to let him talk to Raul, but they refused. "Actually, I wanted to talk to him face-to-face," Joshua told LA Weekly. "I know I could have made him understand. And I know he never would have done harm to his daughter."

Less than three hours after police arrived, SWAT officers stormed the dealership, firing 60 rounds into its small office. When the gunfire stopped, Raul and Susie were dead.

"They let us inside the dealership to look at the bullet holes," Tommy Walker, an organizer with Community Call to Action, a group that formed after the murder of Devin Brown, told Socialist Worker "The way they shot up that place, there was no way they intended anybody to come out alive."

Nevertheless, newly elected Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rushed to defend the police--before an investigation had even begun.

Although a police investigation has proven that police bullets killed both father and child, the LAPD, Villaraigosa and much of the media are trying to deflect blame onto Peña. They say that Raul endangered the whole neighborhood and used his daughter as a "human shield." "This guy is not a hero," declared Police Chief William Bratton at a press conference. "He is a cold-blooded killer."

But the LAPD has a long record of lying to cover up its brutality. A Los Angeles Times exposé last October showed that in at least 28 police shootings--15 of them fatal--the LAPD lied and withheld information from the police commission so that the officers involved would be cleared of wrongdoing. We can't let them blame the victim.

Several hundred community members held angry rallies at the site of the shooting every night after the murder. "The sentiment out here has been rage at the institution and love for the community," Ami Motevalli, a high school teacher, told Socialist Worker. "Kids have been looking at the bullet holes and asking, 'Am I next?'"

On July 14, about 300 mostly Black and Latino protesters marched in the street in front of the car dealership. Nearly 100 police were also on hand.

Raul Peña's cousin, Juan Carpio, brought his two daughters to the rally. "I believe he needed help," he said of his cousin. "Even when he was gunned down, he was on his cell phone, trying to get help. The cops think they're so powerful that they can do whatever they want, and no one is going to challenge them. The African American community is out here supporting us because [the cops] have murdered so many of their kids. Villaraigosa is defending [the LAPD], but he wasn't there. How does he know what happened?"

Erika Kindell, who lives a block from the site of the killing, told Socialist Worker that police made "a rush to judgment. If this had happened in Westwood [a predominantly white neighborhood], they would have handled it much different. They would have saved that baby's life, even if it took a week. But because it was a poor Hispanic on this side of town they used aggressive tactics, just like with Devin Brown. It's a mess. It's like we're not even seen as people down here."

There's an urgent need to organize community anger into a movement strong enough to force the prosecution of these killer cops. Although organizing took place after the murder of Devin Brown, much of it was channeled into a campaign to stop gang violence, instead of targeting the police and city officials.

We have to stop the LAPD before they kill again. Justice for Raul and Susie!

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