Congresswoman Waters Calls for Federal Investigation into Inglewood Killings

Congresswoman Waters Calls for Federal Investigation into Inglewood Killings
Written by Yussuf Simmonds, (Asst. Managing Editor), on 07-31-2008 11:39

Francis Taylor for Sentinel
Congresswoman Maxine Waters holding a press conference in front of Inglewood City Hall.

The killing of another African American male in Inglewood has triggered a call to solve this ‘national crisis’

Calling it a national crisis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-D-35) held a news conference at Inglewood City Hall where she outlined steps that need to be taken and things that have to be done to stop the “wanton” killing of African American men throughout the nation, often by White police officers.

“We need to have a thorough outside investigation to understand what is happening and to take the appropriate steps to correct the situation,” Waters stated.

In her letter to Attorney General Michael Makasey, the congresswoman outlined the situation—the recent killings—and asked that his office conduct an investigation to determine whether the Inglewood Police Department (IPD) has engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct or violated federal civil rights or criminal law.

“The community is outraged and it’s not only in Inglewood,” Waters continued, “Throughout the country, African American men are being killed.”

Though the focus of the news conference was the killing of Kevin Wicks, there was continuous mention of two other recent killings: Michael Byoune and Larry White. Byoune’s family has filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Inglewood.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Waters promised to use the power of her office to get to the bottom of the situation—the killing of African American men.

There are several investigations looking into the killings in Inglewood by different law enforcement agencies including the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the State Attorney General, the federal government and an internal investigation by the IPD.

However, Waters echoed well-perceived sentiments of the community when she said, “I don’t trust the police department to investigate itself.”

Dorothy Nelson, Wicks’ grandmother, was present and even though the strain of losing her grandson was evident, she said, “He was my first grandson and a fine young man. He worked at the post office for 19 years and wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather.”

There is speculation that Inglewood needs a Christopher Commission-like review panel to “clean” out the IPD and possibly place the department under a federal consent decree like the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). When asked about that possibility, Waters responded, “I have not given it much thought.”

The Inglewood Police Commission does not seem to have the same civilian oversight authority that the LAPD commission has. For example, IPD reportedly has 11 commissioners overseeing a department of about 180 officers. LAPD has five commissioners and about 9,000 officers.

At the podium with Congresswoman Waters were Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, Gloria Gray, community activist Morris Griffin, Mitchell Willams of the NAACP and many Inglewood residents. The audience included Brother Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and IPD commissioner Adrian Sears.

Approximately six years ago, when the IPD was videotaped beating Donovan Jackson, an African American teenager, members of the Congressional Black Caucus came to Inglewood and held a much-publicized hearing. Will there be another similar hearing? The problem seems to be that nothing happens after the hearing or the blue ribbon panels. One can go all the way back to the Kenner Commission and beyond, and each incident produces more rhetoric but no tangible results.

Shooting Rocks Quiet Inglewood Neighborhood

Shooting Rocks Quiet Inglewood Neighborhood
Written by Ra’Kenna Joseph, Sentinel Intern , on 07-31-2008 11:32

Allegations made by grieving father anger residents

The complex at 124 N. Hillcrest Blvd. in Inglewood has been the center of the media frenzy since last week’s murder of resident Kevin Wicks. Although reports differ about what actually happened that fateful Tuesday morning, residents of the usually quiet neighborhood are speaking up after comments suggested that the neighborhood was not safe.

“It’s a very good neighborhood,” stated Annette Whitson, 56, a teacher in the Hawthorne School District who lives in the apartment complex next door. “I’ve lived here for five-and-a-half years. A lot of seniors and career people work here. If it wasn’t [safe], I wouldn’t be here, “ she firmly added.

Whitson and several other residents are responding to allegations made by Wicks’ father and the media that the neighborhood’s violence is what ultimately led to his son’s death.

“There are beautiful flowers, trees, clear houses, and just a peaceful neighborhood. The landlord takes care of the complex and the people are very friendly. I don’t know why [Wicks’] father said it’s a bad neighborhood,” said Whitson.

Residents described the small-knit Hillcrest community as a “family” where neighbors waved at one another in the morning, exercised around the street corners and genuinely took an interest in one another. The neighborhood houses mostly senior residents and is the backdrop for million dollar homes right down the street. 12-year resident Tony Williams lived in Wicks’ complex and said, “We’ve never had problems over here before.”

Landlords of the adjacent apartment complex, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, real estate agents and residents who lived in Hillcrest for over thirty years blatantly disregard the “erroneous statements” made about their neighborhood.

“The information is all skewed. I hate that he was killed, [referring to Wicks]. He had been with the post office for some time and he made no problems. He was legitimate, but all of this is ridiculous. We’ve never had a situation [like this]. A few months ago, there was a domestic dispute, the cops came out and the owner got rid of them after that,” said Mr. Smith, who declined to give a first name.

He went on to say, “This is the best neighborhood in the city. Our own people will stereotype neighborhoods, but this is an elderly community with a low density of apartments. This is a good neighborhood”.

A town hall meeting has been organized for August 6th to discuss the recent shooting incidents involving law enforcement officials and Los Angeles residents.

The owner of 124 N. Hillcrest Blvd. declined to comment on the situation.