Russian Men Living In L.A. Who Fought At The Battle of Stalingrad

2004

The days are quiet now for several Russian men who live modestly in West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Little excitement passes their way. But once in a while they get together and talk about what they did more than 60 years ago near the Volga River in Russia.

These rare men fought and survived in what many historians consider to be the greatest and bloodiest combat in all of history - The Battle of Stalingrad.

Up to two million people died there from August, 1942 to Feb. 2, 1943. When it was over, the once proud and mighty 6th Army of Germany - as well as the Nazi aura of invincibility - was like the city of Stalingrand itself; in ruins.

Some of the veterans, brought to America decades ago by sons and daughters. sat recently in the Hollywood Boulevard offices of the Russian newspaper “Panorama” and talked about the ferocity that was Stalingrad.

West Hollywood resident Vladimir Barkon was not quite 17 when his military training was cut short and he received orders to “get on a train.”

“At first we didn’t know where we were going, so we weren’t scared,” said Barkon, 79, a short, stocky man with the dour look of a Brezhnev-era politburo member. Then one September night, Barkon and about 800 others were told they were being sent to the front. “There was no fear. Absolutely nyet.”

The fear would come later.

On, Sept. 29, 1942 Vladimir Barkon crossed the Volga.

““The river was on fire,” said Barkon who is vice president of the Association of Russian Veterans. “We crossed as fast as we could. Many people died on the boat.”

After crossing the river and entering the shattered city, the Russians cowered from German Stuka dive bombers whose engine’s screaming howl was utterly terrifying.

“They made such a horrible noise,” said Moysev Duginsky, 81. “The Germans were blowing up everything. What was left to defend was already destroyed.”

They defended the infamous Tractor Factory, scene of the most horrific close quarters fighting. For these Russians life was, as stated in Anthony Beevor’s book “Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege”- “an endless hell of automatic fire, sniper shots, artillery explosions, Stuka dive bombers, Russian Katyusha rockers, heavy smoke, rubble, hunger, sleepless nights and the stench of death.”

Many consider the battle to be the “turning point” of the war, including the United States President at the time. The Russians proudly show off a copy of a proclamation.

“In the name of the people of the United States of America I present this scroll to the city of Stalingrad to commemorate our admiration for the gallant defender whose courage, fortitude and devotion during the siege in 1942 and ‘1943 will inspire forever the hearts and minds of free people. Their glorious victory stemmed the tide of the invasion and marked the turning point of the war of the Allied Nations against the force of aggression.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 19, 1944.

“You see,” said Barkon, who was wounded in the tractor factory and later worked as a construction manager, “The Americans know all about Stalingrad. But, they pretend they don’t. Here, all you hear about is Normandy and how they beat the Germans there.”

Attempts to find German survivors of the battle were unsuccessful. “I don’t know anyone who survived Stalingrad who lives here,” said Michael Wolff, press attache of the German Consulate of Los Angeles.

Mikail Volman thinks back on the German enemy.

“I remember the German soldiers were so full of pride when they were attacking,” said Volman, 80, who has lived with his wife in Santa Monica since 1992. “And I remember how pitiful they looked when they were captured.”

During the United States’ march toward Baghdad, Volman heard reports how the city might be “defended like Stalingrad.”

Volamn and Barkon laugh at that thought.

“Only people who have no idea of what Stalingrand was could make such a comparison,” said Volman. who became an electrical engineer after the war. “Don’t even ask me about the weather. I still get shivers.”

One of the Russians brought his proof. Like the Burgess Meredith character Mickey in “Rocky” who carries around an old newspaper clipping of his glory days, Makail Lembersriy removes a folded piece of paper from his worn brown wallet. With a nod and the barest crack of a smile, he hands the yellowed paper to a translator. It is a certificate stating that Lembersriy, a sergeant in the 62nd Army of Russia fought at Stalingrad. The old soldier retrieves the paper, folds it carefully and works it back into the wallet.

Some of the men showed off medals they had earned during World War II. Irene Parker, the editor of Panorama, deeply admires them. “These men are rare,” said Parker. “Nine out of 10 of our fighters were killed in Stalingrad. It is not common to see men such as these. It wasn’t hard for the government to give them medals. There weren’t many medals to give out because there weren’t many men who survived.”

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As A City Mourns Nipsey Hussle In The Staples Center, A Family Mourns Maurice Forte In Nickerson Gardens

Josiah Walker stayed up late Saturday night - past midnight into Sunday morning -because that day, April 7th, was a big deal to him. It was his 10th birthday. Not long after he turned 10, Josiah heard three gunshots. He was in Nickerson Gardens, Watts, a place long accustomed to the wicked sound.

His mother, Jacqueline, a bit hard of hearing. didn’t hear the shots, but she soon heard the commotion at the front door of her unit. Justice, the 17 year-old girlfriend of her son Maurice Forte, 18, was there in full distress. Maurice had just been shot.

Jacqueline ran outside, to Imperial Highway near Parmelee Avenue, to a metal gate entrance along the sidewalk of the projects, and saw that worst sight a mother could see; Her son’s lifeless body, three red holes on his sweatshirt.

As the city today focused on the death of beloved rapper Nipsey Hussle, as peace marches spurned by his shooting have attracted thousands to Crenshaw and Slauson and lead the local news, the struggles of Watts went on almost unnoticed west of Central Avenue.  

But, here, inside Watts, the pain was as unbearable as ever.

A nearly lifelong Nickerson Gardens female resident who goes by the name Red led me to Maurice’s mother’s apartment. Red used to live next door and knew the slain boy when he was yay high.

Jacqueline Walker comes to the front door to meet us. She is not in tears. She is not red-eyed. She seems, actually, kind of drained of emotion. As if the last two days she’s been in Zombieland. It’s not that she’s medicated, it’s just that she’s so brokenhearted her emotions have run dry.

Red hugs her.  She looks at me and, before I even say a word, she politely says “I just want to let you know there are no words of comfort that can make me feel better. There are no words.”

So I say nothing, in hopes she will continue, maybe start talking about her son without a prompt. She doesn’t.    

In an effort to obtain instant credibility, I tell her “I’ve been covering Watts for close to 30 years. I’m old friends with Kartoon and with Loaf.”

She looks at me blankly. Kartoon, I repeat. Loaf, Nothing. No reaction. “You don’t know of Kartoon or Loaf,” I asked, mentioning two legendary men around these parts. She shakes her head, in an almost embarrassed way.

Red bursts into laughter. “That right there shows you how square she is. You live in Nickerson Gardens and don’t know Kartoon or Loaf?  Girl, you gotta be the squarest lady up in here.” Red burst into laughter. And, almost certainly for the first time in over 48 hours, so does Jacqueline.

It turns out this “Kartoon”, whose name is Ronald Antwine, came across the crime scene almost immediately after it occurred.

“Moe was already dead,” Kartoon said as he stood in front of the Nickerson Gardens gym, famous for a small mural that says “Nobody Can Stop This War But Us” and larger ones listing the names of residents who have died, both naturally and violently.

Antwine had been at a friend’s party earlier Saturday night. Here is some of what he wrote to me later;

“I  went to my lifelong friend Greg’s 60th birthday party, The odds were stacked against us to live a full life years ago. I sat and partied with my O.G’s and the reunion was priceless.

“I left that party and went to another where I sat with an O.G. who, at one time, would have been labeled as my enemy. We talk about, not only Nipsey Hussle’s murder, but the gang culture here in Watts and South Central. We both acknowledged the lack of respect many youngsters display, the disloyalty and the devaluation of life. After a lengthy conversation we parted ways in the hopes of ending our night peacefully.

“In less than 10 minutes the uplifted spirit of mine fell from its heights, my emotions became unstable, my life felt so empty. A few seconds in front of me an act of  cowardice took place, I pulled over knowing I couldn’t render any assistance. I watched a young man take his last breath.”

“I feel bad about Nip, It’s a tragedy.  But, his funeral gonna be at Staples Center and the whole city will be watching and grieving. What about the family here grieving for their kid.”  

.“I’m tired, just simply tired of what has become just another day in the hood.”

The LAPD would only say their investigation is continuing.

“We’re working on a few thing, but we’re in the infancy of the investigation,” said Det. Arron Harrington of LAPD’s South Bureau Homicide.

Since the killing, as is common after a shooting, rumors have been rampant and Harrington doesn’t want to encourage more. A video even briefly surfaced on Facebook of the fallen young man.  

Back at Jacqueline’s, her and Red stood at the entrance of the two units, an area maybe 15 square feet. This was Moe’s childhood playground, they say.  His family wouldn’t let him venture out into the projects, home of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, one of America’s most infamous street gangs.

Maurice’s confinement didn’t last. After being bussed to middle school, the small confines of the porch was no longer possible and Moe started to hang out. In short time, he was getting into trouble. He did time in juvenile camp for being a look out on a burglary, a crime that both his mother and Red had another laugh about.

“I don’t even think he knew what he was doing,” said Red. “He was supposed to be a look out on a burglary and he was playing on the phone when the police drove by.  He sure couldn’t be my lookout when I was robbing banks.”

Soon, Maurice had sprouted to 6-foot, 1” and became known in some circle  as “Big Moe”. His troubles continued and he, while not a ruthless hard core killer, would end up in camp or juvenile hall, usually for a failure to appear that a warrant had been issued for. “Everyone around here would remember him as a good kid,” said Red. “But, in Nickerson Gardens, you can’t help but know your neighbors and if they happen to be Bounty Hunters, you just can’t ignore them.”

Jacqueline suddenly remembers his probation officers, a Mrs. Grimes from the Compton office. “She is going to be devastated. She was very kind to Maurice.”  

It’s often hard for people, even if they live here in, say, West L.A. or Encino to understand or even give a damn when a gang member dies. The first, knee jerk response is usually “Well, he was a gang member. What did he expect?”  What, they don’t understand is in some places it’s safer, certainly easier to be in a gang than not.  And being in a gang doesn’t make you a killer. In the city’s most notorious gangs; Bounty Hunters, Grape Street, Rollin’ 60s, Hoover Criminals, shot callers have told me the vast majority – up to 90, 95% - are not “true riders”, the hard core who “put in work” for the gang.  

Still, the newspapers are full of two word biographies -  “gang member” – to describe the life of a countless homicide victims. But, who was that person?

Maurice’s girlfriend, Justice, who was with him when he was killed as they were walking to a market,  said she met him three years ago when she was only 14.. “Months later, he asked me to be his girlfriend.”

Justice in a soft, barely audible voice, spoke of his gentleness, his thoughtfulness.  

“I never expected him to do half of things he did for me. If I needed to talk, he wanted to listen. He wouldn’t butt in and say something, he would let me talk.  He was always there for me.”

Later, Justice texted me the following

“I have something else I want to add. He was the first boy to meet my father and my father loved him so.  That made me love him even more. Maurice was such an adventure. We were always happy. I love him and I will forever cherish him in my heart.”

Reached by phone, Moe’s sister Kiearra can’t speak other than to say “This is about to be hard.”  She hands the phone to another brother, Jahmile.

“He was a loving person,” Jahmiel Forte, Jr. said “He would never want to hurt anyone. He was all about family.  He loved music. Loved rap. We’d sing together.”

Thinking, reaching for some sap, that  I might get an ironic Nipsey Hussle shout-out, I ask “Who was his favorite rapper?’

“Himself,” said his sister Kiearra, returning to the phone. “He was his favorite rapper. Only thing, was he never go to finish a song.”

Another sister, Janae, Forte, 20. said her brother was always smiling and would never let anyone know if he was down.

“There was never a day when he showed anger or sadness,” she said. “If he ever was, no one knew because he would keep it to himself.”

Back in Nickerson Gardens, his mother talked about his dreams of becoming in the music business and getting out of this neighborhood.

“He wanted to go someplace peaceful,” said Jacqueline. She said that three more times. Each time a little softer, almost like she was  thinking -or at least hoping – he is there now.

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L.A. Times Article 21 Years Ago Today On Rollin' 60s Trying To Stop Bloods In Inglewood From Killing Each Other

Originally printed April 5, 1998, Los Angeles Times

Three Bloods street gang factions are at war in Inglewood, and the Crips are mobilizing to enter the fray. But this time, the Crips, for a quarter-century the mortal enemy of the Bloods, are stepping in as peacemakers.

Although several gang peace treaties and cease-fires have been negotiated in Los Angeles County over the last six years, this marks the first time that former and current Crips have intervened between warring Bloods sets. One could liken it to Israel stepping in to stop factions of the PLO from killing each other. And like peace talks in the Middle East, these negotiations are going to be delicate.

"We are dealing with some really sensitive issues here because there's been a whole lot of blood spilled," said Brian Mustafa Long, a former Rollin '60s Crip turned peacemaker.

"We don't want the Bloods to think we're coming in with some government programs and putting them under a microscope in a laboratory. We just want the killing to stop."

On Friday at Rogers Park in Inglewood, the first in what is expected to be a series of meetings took place. The Inglewood Police Department was notified beforehand.

"We are encouraging, supporting and applauding the effort," said Lt. Hampton Cantrell. "Law enforcement alone won't solve these problems. We can do a lot, but we're hoping the gang leadership and membership come to some resolutions themselves."

Although the last two weeks have seen a decrease in flagrant hostilities, murders in Inglewood are on pace to rival the bloody days of 1990, when 33 people were killed in gang-motivated crimes.

There were 13 gang murders in Inglewood last year, the lowest total in more than a decade. But there have already been seven gang killings this year.

Police attributed the recent rash of killings to infighting among the Bloods.

"We have a great deal of concern about that," said Cantrell, who added that Inglewood's mayor, Roosevelt F. Dorn, is supporting the meetings. "The gangs need to talk."

In an activities room at Rogers Park, they did talk. Though only a single representative from each of three Bloods factions showed up, the negotiators were not discouraged.

"This is a start, a courageous start," said Long, 36, who founded the organization RISE to help troubled youths find jobs. "We're trying to create another avenue where you guys can express yourselves."

Leading the meeting was Malik Spellman, a community activist who was involved in the 1992 Watts gang peace treaty.

"We've been through what you don't need to go through," Spellman, 25, told the younger gang members. "We're not here to say who's wrong. We just want to focus on stopping the madness. We want to kill ignorance."

For the most part, the Bloods quietly listened, didn't talk to each other, and frequently nodded in agreement with what the older men said, especially when they talked of the need for jobs.

News of the meeting attracted the attention of Billy Wright, a movie producer.

"I heard about this and I just had to be here to see it with my own eyes," said Wright, who produced "Dead Homies," a documentary about gang life. "This is historic."

During one of the meeting's lighter moments, Spellman told the Bloods he would be willing to change his wardrobe to further the cause of peace.

"Can I come to your neighborhood?" Spellman asked the Bloods, who are associated with the color red. "I got red clothes for days. I got my Blood outfit. Man, I'll put on so much red you'd make me take some of it off."

Later, however, tension mounted as a 17-year-old from the Inglewood Family Bloods indicated a reluctance to work with gang members from "the other side" because he had lost too many friends to street shootings.

"Man, we've all lost homies," rumbled a voice from the rear of the room.

Kevin "Big Cat" Doucette was speaking and everyone was listening. Doucette, 38, a huge, legendary street fighter from the Rollin '60s who has spent many years at California's toughest prisons, urged the younger members in his gruff way to focus on the living, not the dead.

"I know you're upset and hurt about your dead homies, but we have to move forward," Doucette said.

"The killing's been going on since before you were born. We've got to try and show homies how to live, not die."

Doucette said older gang members need to be at the next meeting.

"A lot of the older guys are no longer actually banging, but they're like politicians now ordering the young foot soldiers to do the killing," Doucette said.

"We need to get them to the table."

As the meeting came to a close, the young Bloods said they planned to debrief their comrades.

"I'm gonna tell the homies to come check the next meeting," said Vincent Johnson, 16, from Neighborhood Piru in Inglewood.

"They're making some sense." Another Blood agreed.

"I think it's cool they're trying to help us so we won't be out killing," said Dell "O Dog" Hoy, 17.

"As long as they ain't coming over here and starting something and ordering us. If anyone wants to help stop the killing, it's cool with me."

Nipsey Russell, The Rhyming Comedian/Poet Who Nipsey Hussle Got His Stage Name From

In the wake of Sunday’s shooting death of Nipsey Hussle and the outpouring of grief for the rapper who didn’t forget where he was from, I wanted to briefly give some recognition to the man he got his stage name from.

It came from Nipsey Russell, a popular comedian from the 50s, 60’s, 70s 80s and 90s who was a frequent guest on talk and game shows and was best known for his fast - and usually funny - little poems. His rhymes - and I’m totally guessing here - might have been a source of joy for the hip hop artist whose birth name was Ermias Asghedom

Russell made his first national TV appearance in 1957 on the Ed Sullivan Show. In 1978 he play the Tin Man in “The Wiz” with Diana Ross. He was a fixture on “Hollywood Squares”.

During the 1990s, Russell gained popularity with a new generation of television viewers as a regular on late NIght with Conan O’Brien. He would often give his trademark rhymes on the show and - once again, guessing - maybe this is where Nipsey Hustle became entertained enough to adopt a street version of his name.

Born in Atlanta in 1918, Nipsey Russell died at age 87 in New York City in 2005. For the record, Nipsey was born Julius Russell. He said he was given the name “Nipsey” by his mother because she “just liked the way the name Nipsey sounded.”

So did Nipsey Hussle.

Here’s a Nipsey Russell classic

“There’ so much talk about sex

That I have made a vow

To find the guy who invented sex

And see what he’s working on now”

Here’s some of Russell’s rhymes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJx2fvdPzo4

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Robert Mueller To Investigate Murder Cases Of LAPD Det. Chris Barling For "Collusion With Watts Gang Members"

One day before he is scheduled to retire from the Los Angeles Police Department, legendary homicide detective Christopher Barling was dealt a shocking blow when word leaked that the United States Justice Dept. had assigned Robert Mueller III to prepare a report regarding his possible “collusion with Watts street gang members”, authorities said Wednesday.

The report by Mueller, who just finished a much-publicized investigation on the possible links between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, could put in jeopardy the more than 8,900 homicide cases Barling worked and cleared. “If it turns out Barling colluded with gang members in Watts, all those cases could be reviewed and likely thousands of them would be overturned,” said a federal law enforcement source speaking on the condition of anonymity. “If that happens the streets of Los Angeles would be flooded with convicted killers.”

What sparked the Justice Dept. investigation was discovery of a nearly 30-year-old internal memo that was leaked to the Washington Post and Krikorian Writes over the weekend and has since been thoroughly vetted.. The memo, from a active current member of LAPD’s storied Robbery-Homicide Division, details incidents of collusion in which Barling is alleged to have been involved in as far back as 1990.

Though heavily redacted, the statements are from Det. Tim Marica, who once partnered with Barling in the Southeast Division which includes Watts. Here is what the Washington Post published online earlier today, Wednesday, with redactions intact.

“In 1990, Barling and I were assigned to Gang Unit in SOE ([sic] Div.. Being young officers, we would come in early and meet with homicide dets. The rest of the coppers in the unit were always dumbfounded on how Barling always had inside information on the Bounty ####### and the P#s. When making an awesome arrest, he’d play it ff by saying “I’m really an O’Barling and it’s just luck of the irish.” Then, one day, I saw him in Grape Stre## hood on his day off. I snuck up and heard him talking to an OG. That’s when I heard it. O’Barling claimed he was actually a gangster and had been jumped in by the E/S Patty Crip set. From what i could hear O’Barling had made an alliance with Grape ##### Cri##. He’d lay off of them as long as they gave up info on other rival gangs in the projects.”

Det. Marcia did not respond to repeated phone calls, texts, and E-mails.

Barling, a 32-year veteran of the LAPD, has long been among the most respected detectives in the modern history of the city. A former employee at Disneyland, he gained fame in 1997 during the double murder trial of Cleamon “Big Evil” Johnson when he testified as a gang expert and spoke nonstop for a record 17 hours straight. In a memorable moment of the trial, Big Evil told the judge, Charles E. Horan, ”I’ll confess if this motherfucker just shuts the fuck up.” **

When reminded of that long-winded incident in 1997, retired LAPD homicide detective John Skaggs found it difficult to believe Johnson told that to judge Horan. “I always thought Barling was in cahoots with Big Evil,” Skaggs said.

Still, one of Barling’s closest colleagues, Sal LaBarbera, agreed that Barling could talk with the best of them.. “We called him “The Filibuster’,” LaBarbara, said “He would talk everyone’s ear off until you would see things his way.”

Still, most current and retired LAPD personnel who worked with Barling were stunned by the news of the Mueller investigation.

“No comment,” said Capt. Cory Palka, commander of the Hollywood Division who knew Barling from the 77th. Palka claimed he had no idea about the Mueller probe.

Rob Bub, an LAPD homicide investigator for 22 years and currently co-director of investigations at the Los Angeles Detective Agency, said he had always respected Barling’s skills, but started to get suspicious of him last year..

“I think I really started to suspect [collusion] when I heard there was a deal in the works to rename the Watts Towers the Barling Towers,” Bub said.

A veteran crime reporter for the L.A. Times said she wasn’t shocked by the allegations.

“Barling has been playing both sides since before I was born,” said Nicole Santa Cruz. “It’s the worst kept secret in the South end. Despite that, I’m still really going to miss him.”

One member of the Grape Street gave an insight on how Barling benefitted from “insider info” gleaned from gang members.

“Say, for ‘zample, Barling got T Bone from the PJs in the box,” said the gang member who spoke on the condition of anonymity and if I would get him a 40. “We know Bone got a thing for a hottie from the Folsom Lot in the Nickersons who go by ‘Shiitake’. Ya know, like that mushroom. Anyway, So, Barling gets to interviewing T Bone and starts going on and on about Shiitake. You feel me? ‘Fore you know it, Bone giving it up just to get 411 on her. You feel me? On the street we call that fuckin’ with a homie. But, on CNN that’s called ‘collusion’.”

Despite the allegations. many spoke in awe of Barling’s skill, his caring and his single-minded pursuit.of bringing some type of justice to the families of the fallen. One of them was Rick Gordon who has worked with Baring since 1993. He spoke for many when he said the following;

“I always used to tell Chris that he ‘may be’ the best homicide detective supervisor that I have ever worked with. I would always say ‘may be’ because i’ve worked with so may great people and I didn’t want it going to his head. Now that he’s retiring, I was finally able to tell him that he was the best of the best.”

Gordon continued. “Chris was the complete package. He knowledge, work ethic, leadership skills, and compassion for others was truly remarkable. He was a great teacher and mentor for new homicide detectives. Most of all. he truly cared about providing justice for families of murder victims.”

Barling declined to comment for this article and referred all questions to his attorney, Michael Avenatti.

###

Chris Barling represents what is good about - not only the LAPD - but police forces around the world. Barling is a person whose mission is to not let you get away with murder. Many of my friends hate him.

PUBLISHER ’S NOTE - When one of our journalists, Michael Krikorian, approached Det. Chris Barling about doing a serious article about his career at the LAPD, the detective was against the idea. He did not want a glowing, even gushy farewell to the murder cop story. When Krikorian said “How about a fictional story about you being investigated for collusion?”, Barling was all in. So here it is. I added this note because, according to sources in the department - police, not Justice - many people thought Barling really was in the shithouse with Mueller and company. Stay tuned.

As for Barling, here is a story from five and a half years ago on why he - and others - do what they do. It was known as the the Craigslist Cell Phone Killing. http://www.krikorianwrites.com/blog/2013/10/28/daughter-of-slain-man-thanks-detectives-for-arrests

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London Stunned By Murder Spree, 11 Homicides In 13 Days

It was a quiet night at the mini market in the Kentish Town neighborhood of Northwest London last Tuesday when suddenly the clerk heard a loud clang against the metal shutters on the side of the building. He went outside to investigate and saw a ghastly sight; a teenager slumped against the shutters, moaning in agony, hands tight against his stomach, blood dripping from his wet, shiny fingers.

By chance, a doctor was strolling by just then, a little after 8 p.m.. She dropped to her knees and quickly assessed the gravity of the boy's wounds. The English version of 911 was called. Other people appeared, some of them screamed. Residents of the 6-story apartment complex across the street heard the commotion and looked out their windows

The kid writhed as the doctor called out for towels to hold against the grave injury. Within seconds, the corner of Bartholomew Road and Islip Street was raining towels.  "I threw down four," a neighbor lady said.

The police arrived. They frantically urged on an ambulance as they took over from the doctor, pumping his chest. "They were pumping, pumping, pumping", said a man who works nearby. But, it was too late. The kid was gone. 

A lady arrived. The dead kid was partially covered now with those fallen towels, but what she could see of his jacket looked frighteningly familiar. She told the police to let her through. It could be my son. But, they didn't let her close. 

She called her son's phone. Three, four seconds later, from the dead kid's jacket, a cell phone rang.

About 90 minutes later, as the heartbroken mother of 17-year old Abdikarim Hassan was failing to be consoled by loved ones, there was another stabbing death. This time Sadiq Adan Mohamed was killed, on Malden Road near Queen's Crescent Market. 

The two killings brought to 11 the number of homicides in London in just a 13-day period, most of them stabbings.  There were about 105 homicides reported in London for all of 2017.

The latest two victims, were David Potter, 50, who was fatally stabbed in his flat in Tooting, south London, and Abraham Badru, 26, shot dead as he exited a car in Dalston, east London.  The two killings made for a two-inch brief on page eight in The Times.   

When I arrived in London on Friday, March 23, the thought I would be out on the streets reporting on a murder didn't remotely enter my mind. Since I had never been to London  - other than 17-hour layover -  I had planned the usual tourist stuff; Museums, a lot of walking, riding "the Tube", Harrod's, and hanging out at the restaurant Nancy Silverton had commandeered for a week near our hotel in a neighborhood called Shoreditch.

But, as I read the locals papers and viewed their websites, I was surprised, even alarmed by the frequent reports of stabbing deaths. The first one that grabbed me was of Benjamin Pieknyi, a 21-year old from Romania who came to the aid of a friend being attacked and was stabbed to death. A 22-year-old from the Ukraine was arrested for that. I wanted to get to his family, to the guy he came to aid, but they lived in Milton Keynes, a 90 minute drive from London.  

Then, the next day, when I heard about these two murders above, I almost felt an obligation, so I hit the streets.

The next day, an 18-year-old male, Isaiah Popoola, was charged with both killings. He will be tried at London's Old Bailey court.  

As for the victims, the few people I talked to all spoke very kindly of them.  Neither were gang members, they worshiped their families, were lightning quick to help others, were constantly smiling and loved to play football. They were both from the capital city of Somalia, brought to London at a young age to be safe from the dangers of Mogadishu.

IAbkikarim
abdikarim hassan, 17, 

abdikarim hassan, 17, 

SAdiq Adan Mohammad

SAdiq Adan Mohammad

benjamin Pieknyi

benjamin Pieknyi

How To React When Your Partner Gets Shot; The Story Of Two LAPD Officers From Rampart

"Well now I'm no hero, that's understood. All the redemption I can offer girl is beneath this dirty hood."  - from Bruce Springsteen's greatest song, "Thunder Road"

LAPD field training officer Antonio Hernandez, 38,  and his trainee, officer Joy Park, 35, were cruising along Hartford Avenue near 7th Street just west of downtown on the night of Dec. 29 when they saw a man with an open container. They stopped and confronted the man who was standing near the hood of a parked car.

As they were conducting an interview, gun shots rang out. By the third shot, Park was in agony.  

**

When Joy Yoosun Park was a little girl growing up in Korea her father, a policeman in Seoul, regaled her with stories of his daily adventures. Joy was enthralled and dreamed one day she, too, would be a police officer.

During that time, across the Pacific, 5,960 miles away in El Monte, Antonio Hernandez was growing up and – after moving to Pomona where he attended high school – considering a career with the LAPD. In, 2002, he joined up and,  after a 1-year probationary period in the 77th, was sent to Rampart Division in July 2003. Hernandez worked the gang unit there for nine years before becoming a F.T.O. a Field Training Officer.

Park was 17 when she migrated to America. After graduating from Los Angeles Lutheran High School in Sylmar she continued her education at Cal State L.A. where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, whatever that is.

Still, her dream of being a cop never blurred. The problem was she needed to be a naturalized citizen. From when she applied to when she finally became a citizen took over a decade. But, as soon as she got that treasured certificate, she set her sights on the police academy. She graduated last April. It was a glorious achievement for her and for her parents.

“Mom and Dad couldn’t be more proud,” Park said. “It’s an honor to our family to have two generations in law enforcement."

Park, assigned to Rampart,  had already passed the first two phases of her probationary period when she teamed up with Hernandez

“Sir, I wouldn’t even consider Park a trainee because she knew her stuff and had already passed Phase Two” of the probationary period,” said Hernandez. “She was compassionate and caring. She knew how to talk to people. She asked me the right questions.”

***

It was about 9:50 when they turned onto Hartford Avenue, a street in the turf of some gang called Witmer Street 13.

Back to the man with the open container. You might say “Why bother? It’s just an open can of beer.” And I get that. But, this wasn’t your normal open container. It was a 23.5 ounce can of Four Loko, an alcoholic caffeinated beverage so notorious even the Washington Post referred to it as “a blackout in a can”.

So, this Four Loko guy is going along with the program, cooperating and about to get a citation, when the gun fire erupts on Hartford. 

Hernandez intuitively ducked for cover behind the parked car, then saw that Parks had been shot in the leg. Park was in tremendous pain and couldn't speak.  Immediately, Hernandez pulled her to cover behind the parked car as he scanned for the source of the gunfire. 

"I didn't see any blood, but I saw the hole in her pants," said Hernandez, adding that in those first frenzied seconds he pulled drinker man to safety, too. "I was trying to figure out where the shots were coming from .It seemed like they were coming from 8th Street."

As soon as they were all semi- shielded, Hernandez got on his radio. “We need help! Officer down!”, Hernandez yelled into his radio, his adrenaline up, his awareness sky high. Time seemed to slow down.

As he waited for back-up and the first volley of shot stopped, Hernandez had a dreaded thought. “The guy could be reloading and getting closer. I was very concerned for my partner.”

But, within seconds, Hernandez could hear reinforcements coming to the rescue. "In less than a minute there were 50 officers there."

Soon Park was loaded into an ambulance on on her way to County USC. .

Not long after that, a suspect was arrested.  Wednesday, Ivan Castillo, 27, was charged with two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and two counts of assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm. Castillo was also charged with attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm on the Four Loko guy who was near the officers at the time of the shooting.  Castillo is being held on $4 million bail at Wayside. If convicted of the charges, he faces up to life in prison.

Last Thursday, nearly a week after the shooting. Park gave three interviews from her hospital room where she is starting rehabilitation. Two interviews were to local television stations. Soft spoken Park was quick to praise Hernandez.

“He was just like you are supposed to be, He was cool and calm.  When I got shot, he was my first thought.”

One of her other thoughts that night was her mother.“I was so worried about how my mother would take the news and if she would get sick," said Park, her elegant mother sitting a few feet away, saying nothing, but looking proud.. 

Park faces several months of rehab.  Dr. Steven J. Hsu, the associate medical director of the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Keck Medical Center of USC, said Park suffered "a significant, high impact injury that fractured her femur" and she will need four to six months of treatment but a full recovery is expected.    Hsu said by about one inch, the bullet missed Park's femoral artery,  a wound that often results in death.

The day after the shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said this of Park and Hernandez; “They were doing their job and were targeted for it by a coward.”

Sunday, yesterday, during a visit at Men’s Central Jail, Cleamon Big Evil” Johnson, a well-known gang member from 89 Family Swans, said this of the shooter after hearing he had “ambushed” them from up to 500 feet away. “That’s not an ambusher, that’s a coward.”

It was the first known time that Big Evil and Chief Beck agreed on something.

Nobody in the LAPD wants their partner to get shot.  They might have disputes, and the guy or gal riding shotgun might annoy the shit outta them at times, but no one really wants their partner shot.

But, somewhere in the recesses of their brain, I’m betting most of the men and woman in the LAPD, or any police force, for that matter, have wondered how they would react if their partner was, indeed, shot and wounded.

The officer down, well, she or he doesn’t have a whole lotta wondering to do on how they would react. They’ve been shot and not a lot is expected of them other than to go horizontal and writhe in pain. The partner, though, all eyes turn to him or her. Just the way Park’s frantic eyes turned to Hernandez’ “I got you” eyes .

Hernandez fends off the praises that he was a hero, prompting me to think of that line up top from “Thunder Road”.

‘I’m not a hero,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I just did what I was trained to do.   And I was there for my partner when she needed me the most.”

When I asked Antonio Hernandez to send me a photo of himself, he replied "I'd rather not sir."  

park officer

(Editor's Note- Saji Mathai, the copy editor for Krikorian Writes is on strike, hence....)

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For The Entire Year of 2017 There Were 2 Homicides In LAPD's Hollywood Division

I look at crime stats the way I used to look at baseball statistics when I was a kid. Now, instead of checking on Sandy Koufax’s strikeouts, I check the homicides in each Los Angeles police division.

The other day, on the LAPD website, I came across one stat that struck me as stunning, though in a good way. As of then — and as of midnight, New Year’s Eve — LAPD’s Hollywood Division recorded two homicides in 2017: Jimmy Bradford, 47, and Bryan De La Torre, 21.

Hollywood Division has never ranked in the stratosphere of homicides. It’s not like the 77th or Southeast, where in violent years past more than 100 killings were not unusual. (In 1993, there were nearly 300 killings in those two divisions) But two? The last few years, the Hollywood total has been seven or eight, and the peak was 35, back in 1995.

Then, as I took a closer look, I noticed that while homicides were down 71% compared to 2016, and robberies down 5%, aggravated assaults were up 21% — 680 compared to 581. That seemed odd. 

I had lunch with the commander of Hollywood Division, Capt. Cory Palka, and he gave me his explanation. Not particularly politically correct, he came out fast with a reasonable rationale.

“The decline of what I call neon club culture,” he said. “We closed three clubs in Hollywood that were a magnet for the urban crowd of South L.A.”

Hollywood’s story is to some extent the city’s story: Killings are down. Assaults are up.

It doesn’t take a sociologist to figure out “urban” means black.

“Of course, the vast majority are good people. But with an urban crowd from South L.A., you are going to have some gang members. That’s just the facts. And you have club owners with an encouraging attitude — over-serving alcohol, not having proper security — that fuels the situation. Throw in gang members from different neighborhoods, and you get killings.”

Palka said that in each of last few years there were always two or three club-related killings in Hollywood. Because of strict enforcement of various codes, the Cashmere, Cosmos and Supper Club were closed. Last year, no club-related killings. And just one related to gangs, that of De La Torre.

There is still a vibrant clubbing scene in Hollywood, but according to Palka, it caters to a different, often gay, clientele. “That’s fine with us. You don’t have Rollin 60s going there because of the gay element.”

He also cited a crackdown on the so-called Yucca Corridor open-air drug market, as well as local gang prevention and gentrification as keys to making most of Hollywood safer.

The gangs in question — the 18th Street Hollywood Gangsters clique, Mara Salvatrucha 13, White Fence — have had their presence diminished by years of pressure and a new tactic Palka and the division’s gang unit endorse: respect.

“We build relationships,” said gang unit Lt. Jeff Perkins. “It goes both ways. But they know, if [you] commit a crime in Hollywood, we are gonna come after you and you will go to jail.”

Gentrification has meant an increase in the division’s Hollywood Entertainment District force, which now has a lieutenant, five sergeants and about 80 officers. They patrol the area bounded by La Brea, Argyle, Sunset and Franklin, prime tourist territory.

“There are billions of dollars invested in Hollywood and there is a concentrated effort by the police to keep that area safer,” Palka admitted. “I’m all for more expensive restaurants coming to Hollywood. I’d rather have the customer willing to pay $10 for a beer over the customer who pays two bucks for a beer.”

He gave an example of what “safer” means.

“Around the corner from the Pantages, there were a couple vendors selling illegal ‘Hamilton’ T-shirts. Husbands would go on this darkened street and pull out cash because the bastards were too cheap to pay 50 bucks for their wives for a real shirt. And they were getting robbed left and right. We put a stop to that.”

As for the aggravated assaults: “My commanding officer, Mike Moore, says, ‘Your numbers are up, your numbers are up.’ But we have traded major assaults with gang members that can lead to homicides for a homeless man hitting another homeless man with a wrench. Do I want that? Of course not…. Would I rather have that? Yes.”

He also said he knows that sounds wrong, but the truth is the truth.

So Hollywood’s story is to some extent the city’s story: Killings are down (not in every division, but most: the 77th recorded a city-high 49 homicides, sadly about par for the course the last few years; but the once-deadly Rampart Division had 12 killings in 2017, compared to 22 in 2016). Assaults are up. Tamping down gang activity helps the homicide count but the assault problem is bad, and about as intractable.

In a utopia, there wouldn’t be any homeless people attacking each other. And in even a junior utopia, the homeless encampments along the freeways and underpasses would be as safe as Hollywood Boulevard.

I got word about two months ago that an old friend was homeless and living along the Hollywood Freeway near Western Avenue. I checked it out. I didn’t find my friend, but I discovered a sad, eerie tent village, with a foot-wide path separating the shelters from a rocky, 45-degree dropoff to the 101.

The LAPD can’t make that dangerous encampment disappear, and officers might not work a homeless-on-homeless assault like they would a lady from Kansas getting attacked in front of the Chinese theater, but a homicide is still a homicide.  As Michael Connelly’s fictional detective Harry Bosch says. “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

Jimmy Bradford, one of the Hollywood’s two 2017 homicides, homeless - and black -  was stabbed to death near an on-ramp to the 101 on June 12. On the board at West Bureau Homicide next to Bradford’s name it reads “cleared by arrest.”

As for the other homicide victim, Bryan De La Torre, his case hasn’t been cleared. “But homicide is still working it,” said Palka. “Working it hard.

Reprinted from L.A. TIMES Op-Ed January 4, 2018  Here's the link to the Times' op-ed    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-krikorian-crime-rate-hollywood-20180104-story.html

 

LAPD Capt. Cory PaLka , commander of the hollywood division 

LAPD Capt. Cory PaLka , commander of the hollywood division 

Laughter At The Gloomiest Place In Town

“To the memory of those who made us laugh: the motley mountebanks, the clowns, the buffoons, in all times and in all nations, whose efforts have lightened our burden a little, this picture is affectionately dedicated.” – “Sullivan’s Travels”, 1941 Preston Sturges film.

The gloomiest population in all of Los Angeles is found at the Sunday morning gathering in the inmate visitor’s waiting room of the Men’s Central Jail, aka CJ..  

There may be more doomed locales in town – the coroner’s identification room, a hospice where the only hope is that the end will soon come – but, for a mass gathering of gloom, nothing beats the CJ crowd on a Sunday.

It’s depressing here every day, but there’s something extra glum about the Sunday morning visit. Perhaps it's the thoughts visitors have of being elsewhere: Of still being in bed or attending a morning church service or taking the family on a Sunday drive or having some early cold ones with the boys before the resurgent Rams or Chargers play an outta town game at 10 a.m..

Instead, here they are, in the main lockup of the largest jail system in the United States where nearly 20,000 inmates are housed. Some of the visitors are seeing loved ones off before they take the long bus ride to Corcoran or Susanville or even San Quentin's Death Row. Some are there to encourage those still facing trial. But, most are there to let the incarcerated know they are not forsaken.

Me, I’ve been here I don’t know how many times. I think less than a 100, but that I even have to think that lets you know I’m no stranger to the gloom. I’ve even been the one the visitors were waiting to see.

Last Sunday, I was there to visit an old friend, one Cleamon “Big Evil” Johnson. I first wrote in the Los Angeles Times about Johnson, who has been called the most violent gang member in the city by homicide detectives, back in 1997 when he was convicted of ordering a double and sentenced to the Row. (He spent over 14 years there before his conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court and he awaits retrial here.)

I bring this all up because of what happened that last Sunday as I waited in the gloomiest room to see him.

I arrived just after 7 a.m. for my scheduled 8 a.m. visit and took a seat on a green metal bench in the “Hi-Power” visitors waiting area of the roughly 12,000 square foot, brightly-lit room. I sat facing the interior of the room, not toward the wall where television was mounted and playing something that – with just a quick glance – struck me as buffoonish.

Facing me in the row across from mine about four feet away were several people including a very solemn looking 40ish black guy, ‘bout 6-4, 250, wearing low top white Converse. Next to him was a grandmotherly looking tiny Mexican lady with a blue and grey scarf. And next to her, also wearing white low top Converse, was a late 20s woman telling a lengthy story in English and Spanish to a middle-aged Latino who was all ears. Behind them, facing me in the next row, was the only white lady here, a toothless meth-looking type with a three-year old kid in tow. There were close to 20 others nearby, but those folks caught my eye

I took out a few sheets of paper and started writing something. Less than a minute later, I heard a lady right behind me bust out with a short burst of laughter.  I didn’t pay it much mind and wrote on. But, maybe 30 seconds later, she laughed again, this time louder and longer. I looked up and tiny grandma is looking up at the TV behind me and smiling. So is storyteller girl. Even solemn big black looks like he is almost fighting off a grin.

I turn to look what’s on the TV and see a white family on a lake outing having difficulty in their boat. An oar goes flying off their boat and the visitors around me laugh louder.

I turn back just to watch the reaction to these people waiting to see their (allegedly) criminal loved ones. Instead of writing what I had planned, I start to take notes on these people. Something else happens and big black gives up and starts laughing. Story teller girl has abandoned her tale and is mesmerized on the plight of the white family. Even Miss Meth is chuckling in loud staccato bursts.

I take a quick look backward at the television. By now, the apparent father is running for his life away from a speeding truck. Of course, dad is running directly in front of the truck in a straight line down the center of the road, having clearly never seen a Gale Sayers highlight reel.

This brings gales of laughter.   Pryor and Carlin would love this crowd.   

Then, suddenly, there is silence as the truck driver gets out and is about to confront dad. He looks like he’s about to clobbered pops with a straight right hand, but instead he unfurls his hand to reveal a ring.

“My ring! He found my missing ring,” mom says. Back to the visitors. They are all smiling. Close call. Big black has a tender smile. So does grandma and the white girl, too.

A few seconds later, there’s another round of laughter. I have been to open mic comedy shows with less mirth.

I am reminded – as any film buff reading this might be – of that ending scene in Preston Sturgis’ 1941 classic “Sullivan’s Travels” when inmates are howling with laughter as they watch a clip of Walt Disney’s 1934 cartoon “Playful Pluto”.

On this Sunday, the mood suddenly reverts to reality when a deputy sheriff starts calling out names of inmates. The laughter stops. The smiles fade. Big black goes back to stern. He gets up when his inmate’s name is called.  

When "Johnson, Cleamon" name is called, I go to my assigned row (H-12) and have my visit. I tell him about the laughter in the waiting room. He says, “I guess they need a good laugh before coming to see us.”

When I got home, I checked the TBS website for their programming. It turns out we were watching “Vacation”, the 2015 remake of the 1983 Chevy Chase “National Lampoon Vacation”, starring someone named Ed Helms.  This version had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 26%, but for the crowd at CJ it might as well been “Some Like It Hot. “

I hope you never have to visit a loved one at CJ. But, if you do, let me give you some advice. Before you make your appointment, check the listings of TBS. If Vacation is playing, see if you can schedule your visit about an hour after it comes on.

And even if you don't ever go to Men's Central, - and I'm doubting that you will - you oughta still check out something funny, even if it's on the stupid side. Lotta people looking for a laugh these days, even if they ain't visiting someone on their way to Pelican Bay. 

You don't want to get the green light here.

You don't want to get the green light here.