From my Police Officer’s “Daily Field Activity Report,” log entry #22, a true Police story of the events I experienced on the third day of the Los Angeles City riots.
The third day of madness continues but we hear that the National Guard and more Law Enforcement agencies were coming to help us. I have never been to war, but in some senses, I can relate to how men and woman in battle conditions bond together. There is something about it. When you sweat, bleed and cry next to your fellow comrade, a bonding force binds you together, forever.
The strip mall next to the station has now been burning for three days. The Fire Department stops by and puts it out but the community just starts it right back up. Turns out, that it will continue to burn for six days. Large signs posted on various businesses building read, “Black Owned” as if to suggest to all black rioters not to burn or loot that business because a black person owns it.
I do not have much time to listen to the news because it is just work and sleep. “Let’sget going,” shouted one of the Officers in my squad, “We have a house fire to investigate.” Turns out two neighbors have been arguing over the years and one neighbor took advantage of the riots, threw a firebomb onto the roof, and burnt down the neighbor’s house. “Ha, another neighbor was videotaping it,” I laughed.
A community member videotaped a business owner looting his own store over on Washington Boulevard then lighting it on fire and burnt it down. “There is going to be a lot of insurance scams come out of this riot… people with failing businesses, homes or not wanting to pay for their cars are going to destroy them and blame it on the riots,” I said looking out the patrol car window at all the destruction.
The dispatcher put out a radio call, “All units, be on the lookout for three carjacking suspects now driving a 1972 green Cadillac they took at gunpoint.” There was not much traffic on the roads so we decided to park our Police car at the corner of LaBrea and Olympic Boulevard. “Since there is no traffic, any car that comes by has to be the suspects,” the driver Officer said. After only two minutes, we saw headlights heading westbound on Olympic coming right at us. “Here come the suspects,” shouted one of the passenger Officers. “Who in the world steals a bright green, 1972 Cadillac,” laughed another Officer, “Stupid criminals, that’s who,” said the driver as he turned on the lights, siren…, and so the car chase begins.
We chased the suspect all through the neighborhood streets at very high speeds. “That Cadi can move,” I said as we reached speeds over sixty miles an hour. The suspect hit a dip in the road and bottomed out his car. Flames shot out both sides of the under carriage as the oil pan was torn off and the Cadillac went airborne. All four ties left the ground and the Cadillac flew sideways through the air for twenty feet and landed smashing into five parked cars. One suspect broke his back and lay screaming outside of the car while the other two suspects took off and ran down the street. I ran after them but soon saw that the suspects were running right into a group of over twenty Police cars. “They aren’t getting away from eighty Officers,” I thought to myself as I stopped running. As I walked back to the crash scene, I could hear all the Officers yelling at the two suspects who had ran to stop and then all I heard after that was the suspects screaming as they were being apprehended.
The riots continued for six days but got easier, more quiet and better under control once a curfew was established and no one could be on the street past dark. The National Guard was patrolling the streets in Military vehicles and trucks in full uniforms with weapons ready. It was truly a remarkable sight as we took the City back.
I saw many heroic acts, especially during the first three days, from Officers and people in the community helping each other to safety. It is amazing how people will pull together and put aside their differences during catastrophic events. I was saddened as I saw children scared to death and families trying to leave the city, it broke my heart how I could not make it all better. I know that most people are good and that it is easy to be caught up in the moment and become part of the out of control disorder so I do not hold any ill feelings for people because of what happened.
The 1992 Los Angeles City riots will be an experience I will never forget. To this day, I still see empty buildings and vacant lots where thriving businesses once flourished but fell victim to an out of control angry community. Police work as I knew it, was never the same and many changes took place in how the Police dealt with the public. Frankly, I was glad for the changes.