The Hollywood Leather Jacket Murder, Part 2

The NIght the Crips became infamous. 

"You going?"

That was all one had to say. No need to add " the Palladium?" or " see Jackie and Curtis?" or " the Soul Train concert in Hollywood?"

Everyone knew you were asking about the April, 20, 1972 concert at the Hollywood Palladium sponsored by Soul Train and featuring Curtis Mayfield and Wilson Pickett. 

"For weeks we had been hearing about this show and everyone was excited to be going to Hollywood to see Soul Train's first L.A. concert," said Walter Melton, concert goer and friend of one Robert Ballou, Jr. "Lots of people had never even been to Hollywood before."   

Judson Bacot had been to Hollywood. Several times. And he was going on this night, too.  But, Bacot had no intention of hearing Mayfield  sing "Gypsy Woman" or Pickett belt out "In the Midnight Hour".

"I went there to get into some bullshit," said Bacot, an original member of the Westside Crips and now, at 62, as tough and street wise as ever. "We were thinking about robbery before we even got to Sunset Boulevard."

Bacot had robbed people before, perfecting his chilling opening line:."This is a robbery. Don't make it a murder" or - using California Penal Code numbers "This is a 211. Don't make it a 187." 

His long time friend Bobby Crear went to the concert, too, even though his mother was warned him not to.

"She told me 'Don't go up there. You know how they get to acting'," said Crear, who at 6-foot,4 inches, 240 pounds was known among fellow Westside Crips as "Big Bob" and "Knock 'em out Bob."She said you might get into some trouble.   I told her I wasn't going to do anything wrong. I had money. I just want to go check out the show. Plus, I had never been to the Palladium." 

Crear rode up to Hollywood from South Central in his 1962 Chevy Impala Super Sport with three other Westside Crips. Along the ride, They drank a quart of Olde English 800, (this being before the advent of the 40 ounce)..  

Meanwhile, Bacot and anther Westside Crip, James "Cuzz" Cunningham were driving north on Western Avenue heading to Hollywood in a 1965 Rambler. Bacot brought along a Smith & Wesson .22 pistol.  They parked north of Sunset and walked toward the Palladium 

When asked what they did along that walk, Bacot answered casually "We did some robberies. We robbed more blacks than whites that night. But, the last one was these three white guys who were really relieved to only get robbed and not shot."

At the Palladium, Big Bob Crear was playing the role of the big shot.

"A lot of people didn't have money for a ticket, so I kicked the side door in for them and they poured inside, said Crear, clearly proud of that. "I was a big shot 20-year-old with some money. I went to the front, paid for my ticket and walked in. It was a good show. 

Then the concert ended.


Throngs exited the Palladium, flooding Sunset Boulevard. By then,  Bacot and Cunningham were across the street at the Arby's enjoying roast beef sandwiches. After finishing them, they saw the prize - a leather jacket that would change Los Angeles.

Charles Foster - wearing a long, black leather jacket  - known as a Maxi coat -  and two friends including Robert Ballou, Jr., had gone to the show and were walking across Sunset toward the Mark C. Bloome tire store  Bacot and Cuzz caught up with him. 

"Hey, dude, Hey, dude," said Cunningham.

"Me?" said Foster, stopping as his tow friends walked on unaware.

“Yeah, What;s up, man? I like that coat."

"I do too," said Foster.

Cunningham hit him.

"Cuzz chin checked him,' said  Bacot, retelling the now 43-year-old story as he sipped a Heineken at Big Bob's home in Inglewood. “He staggered. I grabbed him by the back of the coat. I had the gun out. He got one arm out of the jacket. He was strong.  But, Cuzz caught him on the chin again and he went down."

When Foster went down. Robert Ballou, Jr. ,  16, Los Angeles High School student, football player and son of a lawyer, ran back toward the robbery in progress.

"Ballou started running back toward us. I had the gun in my pocket then. But, I took it back out. I'm looking at this guy running toward me and I'm thinking 'I'm gonna smoke him', but he ran right past us into a another group of guys,  I never did understand why."

That group of guys were the Compton Crips. (At that time there were three Crip gangs. The original Crips of Raymond Washington who were by now know as the Eastside Crips, the Westside Crips who included  Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and the Compton Crips, headed by Mack Thomas.). 

The beating and stomping of Robert Ballou began. Thirty feet away, Crear witnessed the shocking scene.

"Robert Ballou didn't have on a leather jacket. He had on a beige suit. But, anyway, he runs right past his friend right into a bunch of the Compton Crips. They started in on him.  He went down. They got in some kicks on him.  I was watching and I'm think, "Whoa. They knocked him out."

But, Robert Ballou, Jr was not knocked out. He was dead.


Bob Souza was the first LAPD detective on the scene. it was his first homicide.

"I got there around midnight," Souza recalled a few years back. "The body was out there in full public view. He was stomped and beaten and when I got there he was kind of half on his side and half on his back, kind of curled up. I don't remember a lot of blood, but it was a horrendous crime scene.

."It was a mess because of the crowds.  There were just throngs of people and I knew i needed to protect the crime scene," said Souza, who consults on police-related television shows and wrote the Harrison Ford movie."Hollywood Homicide". "It's a distant memory, but I remember it. How could i not." 

Souza gave the officers on the scene "field interview' cards to get potential witnesses, but had little success. "I remember nobody was volunteering much information even though there were hundreds of people out there and some of them had to had seen what happened." 

"As it turned out, the whole point was the leather jacket," Souza said. "That was the whole thing that started this." 

To READ Part 1 check