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.

A Mom, A Son, A Public Defender, A Deputy D.A., Mark Twain and Barney Fife

About three weeks ago, while on vacation,  I received the following text; ‘My name is Lavedia Williams   Guys from Nickerson Gardens told me to contact you   I have a story”

I text back that I’d get with her when I return to L.A.  I did.  This is her story.

On July 18, 2017, her son, Devaughn James, 23, on parole since February after serving time for a residential burglary in Cerritos, is stopped near the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts for driving a car – his girlfriend’s - with expired tags.

(I guess it should be noted up top that James, who grew up in Pomona before coming to live in Watts with his mother at age 16, was not a member of the Bounty Hunters, the notorious Blood gang that rules the projects.)

“The sheriffs pulled us over at 113th and Bellhaven for expired tags,” says Lawren Huff, 24, James’ girlfriend of three years.  “It was my car and he had a valid license.”

During the stop, the deputy, a guy named Rothwick (who I didn’t reach), is, according to Huff, “very polite”.  

“He asked Devaughn if he was on parole and when Devaughn said ‘yes’, he asked ‘what for?’,” says Huff.

“A residential burglary,” James replies.

“Was it a bullshit charge or legit?” deputy Rothwick asks.

“No, it was legit. I did the crime,” answers James, who did the time, too, 17 months, much of it at a fire camp near Santa Clarita.

Rothwick - or his partner in the cruiser  - run the address James gave them as his current residence. Their in-car computer shows a gun is registered to that address which is his mother’s home located a few blocks away on 113th and Wadsworth Avenue.

They place James in the patrol car and drive to the address. They knock. Lavedia Williams answers the door. Deputy Rothwick explains the situation.

She invites him into her spotless four-bedroom home. She shows him the gun in her bedroom, which has a lock on the door. He calls in a sergeant. They video the scene. They take the gun and take her son to the sheriff’s station.

They explain to the mom they will get a hold of James’ parole officer and then he will be released.

But, they can’t reach his parole officer. Instead, he is charged as a felon with access to and in possession of a firearm.   He is sent to the county jail facility known as Wayside, near Magic Mountain.

And Devaughn James is facing seven years in prison for that gun.

By the time I get to Williams’ house. In late August. she’s a nervous wreck.

“This could ruin my son’s life,” she says, “I was honest with the sheriffs. I shoulda lied and or just not let them in the house.  But, I told them the truth. It was my gun. My mom gave it to me so many years ago. It’s an heirloom.  An old .32 revolver. It wasn’t even loaded. I only have two bullets and I keep them nearby, but not in the gun.”

Bam! And just like that. I have the lede for this story. This woman has twice the fire power of Barney Fife. I’ll get to that later.

Williams tells me about herself. She’s a former rabble-rouser from Nickerson Gardens who is tight with several guys I've known for decades.  I mean she knows Loaf, Kartoon, Big Hank, Big Donnie. She’s impressed I know all these guys. It vastly helps my credibility and her comfort level.  On the other hand, her knowing them lets me know I’m not dealing with Mary Poppins.

And just like that, she admits to being “in the life” back in the day. She fought. She dealt. She used. She represented. But, that was then. This is now. She’s been clean for 15 years. Now she’s a protective mother.

I take more notes. And vow to keep in touch. She gives me the next court date. I say I’ll try and make it. But, when that court date rolls around, I’m outta pocket.  

Nothing happens in court that day anyway and the case is postponed until Sept. 15.  This past Friday.

A week ago, I talk to Williams. She is more worried than ever. He son was at Wayside when a race riot breaks out. Two inmates are seriously injured. It’s an unsettling experience for James – 5’ 8’, 145 -  and probably more so for her. She says her son told her he was “surrounded by 30 Hispanics.” at one point.  This is not fire camp in Santa Clarita. Wayside don’t play.

Lavedia says again she hopes I can make it to court.  

So, Friday, I come to Compton Court. 10th Floor. High security. I have lot of memories here. Most of them bad.

But, I’m not thinking of the bad times here: my namesake, Michael Jr., being sentenced to a long prison term; me in the lockup downstairs twice; the many tearful testimonies of kin of the killed.

Instead, I am gratefully thinking of one glorious memory here, a moment as liberating as I’ve ever known. It was about 30 years ago and I’m facing several years for a bar room brawl that spiraled out of control. I didn’t start it, but I ended it. I had thirty times the firepower of Barney Fife and all of it loaded.

I’m hoping, praying I get a year, maybe two, when the lawyer my dad hired, one brilliant attorney named Paul Geregos, (father of Mark) tells me the deputy district attorney and the judge have agreed to cut me a ton of slack. Time served and a month at Men’s Central.

I’m deep into this grateful thought – partly thinking with dread about where I would have ended up if I got the years - when an attractive young woman asks me “Are you Mike? Mike the writer?’  It’s Devaughn James’ girlfriend, Lawren. We talk. She details that traffic stop. Then Lavedia shows up. And then Devaughn’s sister. Then Lavedia’s boyfriend, Anthony.

Lavedia is thinking the worst case. I try to calm her.

“You ever hear that line by Mark Twain about worries?” I ask.

No.

“Some of my biggest worries never happened,” I tell her, paraphrasing one of the great quotes.

She repeats it.  

Then James’ public defender, A. J. Bayne, exits another courtroom and speaks to the family. He seems surprised that a reporter is there. I explained I’m a former Times staffer, and Watts – and South Central -  was my beat and though I’m no longer on staff, I write an occasional op-ed for them. And I have this website.

“I know this isn’t a big front-page story,” I explain. “A triple murder or something. But, it’s a front-page story to this family.”

He seems to get that  Bayne is clearly a busy public defender.  He points to yet another courtroom and says he’s on a trial in there, too.  Maybe we can talk later. Before he rushes off,  he gives me a little on this case.

“This is not a strong case,” he says as he shuffles some papers, “I think if we go to trial, we will win.”

However, he says “the 459 (Burglary) conviction will taint him with some jurors, but at worst they would be a hung jury.”

He adds the value of the family being at the courtroom.  “It’s very important the family shows up,” Bayne says. “Plus, they have credibility. I believe the mother. And another good thing for Devaughn is the D.A..  She’s reasonable.”

We wait outside. Lavedia asks me to repeat that Mark Twain quote.

Then deputy district attorney. Linda Davis arrives. She’s seen it all. About 10 years in Compton Court. Countless cases based in or near Nickerson Gardens.

Presiding in the court room, Dept. F, is Judge H. Clay Jacke II.  Beside the court reporter, the Deputy D. A. , the P.D., it’s just the family on one side of the courtroom seats and me on the other. I’m closer to the attorneys and try to listen in one their whispers.

P.D. Bayne is showing deputy D.A. Davis a video his investigator took that shows the lock on Lavedia’s bedroom door. They speak too softly to eavesdrop. But, there are some nods.  

Then about four, five minutes later, A. J. Bayne walks over Lavedia and says, not too softly. “He’ll be home for dinner tonight.”

She briefly convulses in joy. The girlfriend drops some tears. The sister does, too. Anthony smiles. I think back 30 something  years.

Devaughn comes out and pleads, as agreed,  “no contest”, a version of guilty, but usually associated with a good deal. He is sentenced to four years in prison, but suspended.  Suspended means if you stay clean, don’t violate parole or probation, you don’t go to prison. The gun will be destroyed.

The family is thrilled, though Lavedia hopes to get it completely wiped off his record one day. The public defender is proud he got the guy a deal. Even the deputy D.A. is satisfied. She says that family showing up was important. And she got a gun destroyed.

The only person who was a little disappointed in the outcome was my crusty old editor Morty Goldstein, Jr., a curmudgeonly, nearly-fictional character.

He had hoped, after hearing about the two bullets laying near the gun, not even in the chambers, to use the following lede.

In the “Andy Griffith Show” of 1960s television. bumbling deputy sheriff Barney Fife was issued an unloaded Colt .38 caliber revolver.  Sheriff Andy Taylor allowed him a single bullet that was to be kept in his uniform’s pocket and- only in an emergency – loaded into the gun.

Lavedia Williams of Watts had double the fire power of Barney Fife. Lavedia had unloaded “heirloom”  .32. caliber revolver – a gift from her mother – stashed in the night stand of her usually-locked bedroom with two bullets laying nearby.

That old gun and those two bullets could cost her son seven years in prison.

But, even ‘ol Morty Goldstein is happy we don’t have to go with that lede.

“When that public defender,,, What's his name? A. J. Foyt?”

“A. J. Bayne.”

“Yeah. When A. J. tells the mom ‘He’ll be home for dinner tonight’, man, even I got a little misty.”

Coming from Morty Goldstein, Jr., that’s saying a lot.   So Devaughn James, stay outta trouble.

Lavedia

Lavedia Willaims at home.

John Skaggs, Big City Homicide Detective With A Mayberry Heart, Retires From LAPD

June 30, 2017

February, 2005 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving past the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

 “You know, Marullo, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 Murullo looks up from a Grape Street murder book he’s been studying and says “Dayum!”

###
Besides his father Ronnie, who was a homicide detective for the Long Beach Police Department, there was a fictional detective who inspired John Skaggs to go into law enforcement. But, it was not super cool Steve McQueen with his ’68 Mustang 390 GT of “Bullitt” or deadly Clint Eastwood with his .44 magnum of “Dirty Harry”. It was that soft-spoken, kind and – most of all – respectful Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

 “My favorite TV show as a kid and today was the cop show ‘Andy Griffith’,” said Skaggs, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD who is retiring today. “There was some life lesson learned from every episode about morals and relationships.  I have taken away many ideas from that show on how to treat people with respect, and deal with courage and bravery.”

Although Skaggs, 52, grew up in Long Beach around cops – his uncle was a deputy chief for the LAPD who retired in 1986 – he didn’t seriously consider law enforcement as a career until he was about 17. 

“I got into some trouble as a kid and decided I needed to get away from some bad influences. Soon after, I developed my desire to be a police officer and joined the police academy and never looked back.”

After graduating, he requested to be sent to either of the city’s two highest crime rate areas. 

“I chose 77th Street Division, which covers South-Central, and Southeast Division, which covers Watts.  These two were the busiest Divisions, and they had the largest gang problems.”

Skaggs knew from going to high school in Long Beach and witnessing what was happening on inner city streets and in schools that gang enforcement would be where he could have the biggest impact on people's quality of life.

“The main reason I joined LAPD, was because they were the only police department with a true gang unit.  Their Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) Unit was devoted to one thing, gang suppression.  I joined the LAPD to be a gang officer. I could chase gang members that were responsible for most violent crimes and completely ruined communities with fear and intimidation.”

But, along the wide ride, Skaggs discovered something many cops, journalists and regular folk don’t realize; Gang members are humans, too.

“One thing that stands out is the number of gangsters I built friendly relationships with that were later killed,” Skaggs said. “Many tried to get out of 'hood life.  I observed very often that I was the only person in their lives that ever encouraged them to go legit and get an education or job that would lead to a career.  So many of them had no positive influence in their lives and no role models.”

Rob Bub, who recently retired from the LAPD after 22 years in homicide, was Skaggs' field training officer.

“If you are a training officer, John was the guy wanted to have,” said retired LAPD homicide detective Rob Bub, who was Skaggs’ training officer.

“John knew what he didn’t know and what he needed to learn,” said Bub

The very first day Bub was training Skaggs, they got a call for a man with a knife in a domestic dispute.

“We roll up on the scene and we go around the back of the house on Figueroa,” explained Bub. “And there was this Hispanic guy with a 12-inch kitchen knife. I’m thinking John’s first shift and we are gonna end up dumping somebody.”

The two took up tactical positions and Bub had an idea. He knew Skaggs was fresh out of the academy where they teach rudimentary Spanish.

“Knock him dead with your Spanish,” Bub told Skaggs. “And John talked him out of it. He dropped the knife. It was refreshing to see someone on their first day who knew what to do.”

Christopher Barling, homicide coordinator of the 77th , met Skaggs 30 years ago at the police academy. They were at CRASH together and partners on and off for five years at Southeast. 

“Without a doubt John is one of the best homicide detectives in the LAPD thanks, in large part, to his persistence and stubbornness,” said Barling.“  The characteristics of persistence is not unique among detectives, but John Skaggs has perfected it. "He’s like that old salesman who is about to get shut down and told to leave and at the very last moment, he sticks his foot in front of the closing door.”

It’s not breaking news that the most difficult part of the murder investigations, especially on the Southside of Los Angeles, is getting witnesses. There is the fear of retaliation. Fear of going to court. Fear of being labeled a snitch. And, coming in first place, the fear of getting shot to death for cooperating with the dreaded enemy; the police.

Barling said Skaggs had and knack for getting people to open-up.

“One of John’s greatest gifts was the ability to get someone on his side. He is going to take care of a witness. He has this talent for building a bond with people. And he is very sincere.”

Skaggs also had the talent for pissing people off, Barling said. His fellow detectives, the younger officers, and even his captains and commanders were fair game..

“As his partner, sometimes John’s stubbornness drove me crazy,” Barling said. “He is so strong willed, so strongly opinionated that sometimes he did not want to listen to anyone.”

And Skaggs was never one to apply a coat of sugar.

“People don’t like to hear they are wrong, but Skaggs had no problem telling people what he thought of them,” said Barling. “Me, I might try and finesse a situation. But, John would just tell them 'You’re wrong'."

“In John’s world, you are either helpful or you are a dumb ass.”

LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck lavished praise on Skaggs.

“There is nothing more honorable in policing than detective work,” Beck said via E-mail.  “The dogged determination and intelligent pursuit of the truth required are the best of our qualities.  John Skaggs was born to be just such a detective. He is relentless and brilliant in his hunt for the worst mankind has to offer.  I have depended on him to solve our most important cases.”

In 2009, Beck promoted Skaggs to head the West Bureau Homicide which is currently located at the Olympic Division on Vermont and 11th Street.

“I was proud to promote him so he could pass his skills to those under his command,” Beck said.  “I will miss having him to rely on, but his retirement is well earned.”

Skaggs will expand his role as a teacher and consultant for government programs that assist police departments across the country with high homicide rates and low clearances.

Skaggs will likely teach these departments the value of a good CI.  A CI, or Confidential Informant, is an essential player for a successful homicide detective. Skaggs had some of the best.

“We would be stuck on a case, and John would go off somewhere and talk to one of his informants,” said Sal LaBarbera. another storied LAPD homicide detective who retired in 2015. “Ten, 20 minutes later, he’d come back with some vital information. I’d say ‘How the hell did you get that?’ Even though I knew.”

One of Skaggs prime CI’s talked about him with the proviso her name would not be used.

“I was arrested for prostituting on Figueroa 19, 20  years ago or so and I told the officer ‘What if I told you about a murder?’ Next thing I knew I was taking to John Skaggs. He told me to trust him and I did. Was one of my best decisions. One thing about John. If he gave you his word, he honored it. His word was his bond.”

The woman, hooked on crack, was later involved with a carjacking and did six years in prison. When she got out, she called on Skaggs.

“He was there for me. He helped me stay sober.   I got in a [drug and alcohol] treatment place and John would come visit me.”

She has been clean and sober for six years now.

“Five of those six years John was there to hand me my sobriety cake,” she said. “When life shows up and I need that shoulder to cry on, John is there for me.”

August, 2005 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving by the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

 Marullo’s head is deep into a Mad Swan Bloods vs. Main Street Crip killing.

 Skaggs points at the post officer.

 “You know, Sam, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 “I didn’t know that. Must be a whole lotta letters up in there.”

 LaBarbera said Skaggs solved more of his cases than anyone he knew.  “More than me. More than Barling. He had great persistence.”

Skaggs most famous case was detailed in L.A Times reporter Jill Leovy’s outstanding book “Ghettoside”. All of Skaggs talents are revealed as he successfully investigates the killing of Bryant Alexander Tennelle, son of LAPD homicide detective Wallace Tennelle. 

“If you read the book,”. Leovy said, “It might seem like John is a caricature of a homicide detective, But, in reality, I downplayed him. He really cares deeply about the cases. He has this laser focus. By the way, he thought “Ghettoside” was a book about the [Tennelle] case and everything else in it was just filler.”

Two men were convicted of Tennelle’s murder and both are in prison.

Of, course, all the murders weren’t solved. One of them was the 2006 Watts killing of 25-year-old Anthony Wayne Owens, Jr. shot to death at Imperial Courts housing project.

But, mention Skaggs to Anthony’s mother and she passionately praises him.

“That there is a good man,” says Cynthia Mendenhall, much better known in Watts as community activist Sista Soulja.  When she is told Skaggs is retiring, Sista gets silent for several seconds before saying “For real? You’re gonna make me cry.”

“John Skaggs treated me and my family like we were his family,” said Sista, a former PJ Crip who turned peacemaker and community activist more 20 years ago.  “John was hurt he couldn’t solve Tony’s murder. But, he just couldn’t get what he wanted from the people that knew.  He took it personally.  He is, I guess now was, a great detective. He wasn’t there for the check. He was there for the people.  It was like he was on a mission to catch killers before another innocent life was lost”

Lashell Lewis is mother whose son’s murder was solved by Skaggs. 

In March, 2004, Edwin Johnson, 18, was visiting friends at 97th and Hickory in the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts. A car of rival drove by and Edwin was shot five times.

The mom said that though her son was born in L.A. , he was raised in Big Bear which did not prepare him for the mean streets.

“My son, not being raised in Watts, didn’t know how to dodge bullets,” said Lewis. “I was devastated. I put my faith in John.”

Eight months later, Skaggs having pulled out his main tools – perseverance, charm, trust, sincerity and respect –  solved the case.

“John treated me as a human person with love, kindness and respect,’ said Lewis. “He assured me he would not give up. He treated me, ya know, with love. I think of him not so much as a friend, but more like a big cousin or an uncle.”

March, 2006 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving by the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

Marullo’s preparing himself to give a “notification” to mother whose 17-year-old son has been killed near Nickerson Gardens.

 Skaggs points at the post office.

 “You know, Sammy, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 Marullo doesn’t even look up and just says “They must have stamps for days.”

Marullo, who formally became a homicide detective in February, 2014, is grateful for Skaggs’ mentorship. Still, he enjoys chiding Skaggs about the mail facility.

“Every single time we passed that place he would say that. ‘This is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.” And most every time I would act as though I hadn’t already heard that.  

When it came Marullo’s time to train officers, he followed his mentor’s tradition of telling them about the mail facility.

“I would then say, ‘Did I already tell you that?’ and they would say “Yeah, about three times.’ Millennials. I guess I came from a different era because each of the 15 times John told me that, I act as though it was the first time I heard that useless fact.”

Marullo said Skaggs had high expectations of him and that made him work harder and smarter.

“I find myself placing those same expectations on the trainees with whom I've worked.”

Marullo went on.

“John was dedicated to working murders.  He sacrificed half of his life to chasing killers.  He always left a positive impression on the victims' families and always followed through with his promise to do all that he could to find the person who killed their loved one. He is not only a mentor, but a friend.”  

This morning, shortly after 9 a.m., Skaggs landed at LAX after a week in Memphis and headed for his last shift.

“I’m leaving with a ton of great memories and a few bad ones after 30 years of service,” said Skaggs. “It was an awesome ride.”

Maybe if Frank Bullitt and Dirty Harry Callahan were real, they coulda learned a few things from John Skaggs, the big city detective with the small town heart. Check out the photo below. That’s a real homicide detective. Ain’t nothing Hollywood about it.

sk

John Skaggs, Big City Homicide Detective With A Mayberry Heart, Retires From LAPD After 30 Years Of Service

February, 2005 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving past the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

 “You know, Marullo, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 Murullo looks up from a Grape Street murder book he’s been studying and says “Dayum!”

###
Besides his father Ronnie, who was a homicide detective for the Long Beach Police Department, there was a fictional detective who inspired John Skaggs to go into law enforcement. But, it was not super cool Steve McQueen with his ’68 Mustang 390 GT of “Bullitt” or deadly Clint Eastwood with his .44 magnum of “Dirty Harry”. It was that soft-spoken, kind and – most of all – respectful Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

 “My favorite TV show as a kid and today was the cop show ‘Andy Griffith’,” said Skaggs, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD who is retiring today. “There was some life lesson learned from every episode about morals and relationships.  I have taken away many ideas from that show on how to treat people with respect, and deal with courage and bravery.”

Although Skaggs, 52, grew up in Long Beach around cops – his uncle was a deputy chief for the LAPD who retired in 1986 – he didn’t seriously consider law enforcement as a career until he was about 17. 

“I got into some trouble as a kid and decided I needed to get away from some bad influences. Soon after, I developed my desire to be a police officer and joined the police academy and never looked back.”

After graduating, he requested to be sent to either of the city’s two highest crime rate areas. 

“I chose 77th Street Division, which covers South-Central, and Southeast Division, which covers Watts.  These two were the busiest Divisions, and they had the largest gang problems.”

Skaggs knew from going to high school in Long Beach and witnessing what was happening on inner city streets and in schools that gang enforcement would be where he could have the biggest impact on people's quality of life.

“The main reason I joined LAPD, was because they were the only police department with a true gang unit.  Their Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) Unit was devoted to one thing, gang suppression.  I joined the LAPD to be a gang officer. I could chase gang members that were responsible for most violent crimes and completely ruined communities with fear and intimidation.”

But, along the wide ride, Skaggs discovered something many cops, journalists and regular folk don’t realize; Gang members are humans, too.

“One thing that stands out is the number of gangsters I built friendly relationships with that were later killed,” Skaggs said. “Many tried to get out of 'hood life.  I observed very often that I was the only person in their lives that ever encouraged them to go legit and get an education or job that would lead to a career.  So many of them had no positive influence in their lives and no role models.”

Rob Bub, who recently retired after 22 years as an LAPD homicide detective, was Skaggs' first field training officer.

“If you are a training officer, John was the guy wanted to have,” said retired LAPD homicide detective Rob Bub, who was Skaggs’ training officer.

“John knew what he didn’t know and what he needed to learn,” said Bub

The very first day Bub was training Skaggs, they got a call for a man with a knife in a domestic dispute.

“We roll up on the scene and we go around the back of the house on Figueroa,” explained Bub. “And there was this Hispanic guy with a 12-inch kitchen knife. I’m thinking John’s first shift and we are gonna end up dumping somebody.”

The two took up tactical positions and Bub had an idea. He knew Skaggs was fresh out of the academy where they teach rudimentary Spanish.

“Knock him dead with your Spanish,” Bub told Skaggs. “And John talked him out of it. He dropped the knife. It was refreshing to see someone on their first day who knew what to do.”

Christopher Barling, homicide coordinator of the 77th , met Skaggs 30 years ago at the police academy. They were at CRASH together and partners on and off for five years at Southeast. 

“Without a doubt John is one of the best homicide detectives in the LAPD thanks, in large part, to his persistence and stubbornness,” said Barling.“  The characteristics of persistence is not unique among detectives, but John Skaggs has perfected it. "He’s like that old salesman who is about to get shut down and told to leave and at the very last moment, he sticks his foot in front of the closing door.”

It’s not breaking news that the most difficult part of the murder investigations, especially on the Southside of Los Angeles, is getting witnesses. There is the fear of retaliation. Fear of going to court. Fear of being labeled a snitch. And, coming in first place, the fear of getting shot to death for cooperating with the dreaded enemy; the police.

Barling said Skaggs had and knack for getting people to open-up.

“One of John’s greatest gifts was the ability to get someone on his side. He is going to take care of a witness. He has this talent for building a bond with people. And he is very sincere.”

Skaggs also had the talent for pissing people off, Barling said. His fellow detectives, the younger officers, and even his captains and commanders were fair game..

“As his partner, sometimes John’s stubbornness drove me crazy,” Barling said. “He is so strong willed, so strongly opinionated that sometimes he did not want to listen to anyone.”

And Skaggs was never one to apply a coat of sugar.

“People don’t like to hear they are wrong, but Skaggs had no problem telling people what he thought of them,” said Barling. “Me, I might try and finesse a situation. But, John would just tell them 'You’re wrong'."

“In John’s world, you are either helpful or you are a dumb ass.”

LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck lavished praise on Skaggs.

“There is nothing more honorable in policing than detective work,” Beck said via E-mail.  “The dogged determination and intelligent pursuit of the truth required are the best of our qualities.  John Skaggs was born to be just such a detective. He is relentless and brilliant in his hunt for the worst mankind has to offer.  I have depended on him to solve our most important cases.”

In 2009, Beck promoted Skaggs to head the West Bureau Homicide which is currently located at the Olympic Division on Vermont and 11th Street.

“I was proud to promote him so he could pass his skills to those under his command,” Beck said.  “I will miss having him to rely on, but his retirement is well earned.”

Skaggs will expand his role as a teacher and consultant for government programs that assist police departments across the country with high homicide rates and low clearances.

Skaggs will likely teach these departments the value of a good CI.  A CI, or Confidential Informant, is an essential player for a successful homicide detective. Skaggs had some of the best.

“We would be stuck on a case, and John would go off somewhere and talk to one of his informants,” said Sal LaBarbera. another storied LAPD homicide detective who retired in 2015. “Ten, 20 minutes later, he’d come back with some vital information. I’d say ‘How the hell did you get that?’ Even though I knew.”

One of Skaggs prime CI’s talked about him with the proviso her name would not be used.

“I was arrested for prostituting on Figueroa 19, 20  years ago or so and I told the officer ‘What if I told you about a murder?’ Next thing I knew I was taking to John Skaggs. He told me to trust him and I did. Was one of my best decisions. One thing about John. If he gave you his word, he honored it. His word was his bond.”

The woman, hooked on crack, was later involved with a carjacking and did six years in prison. When she got out, she called on Skaggs.

“He was there for me. He helped me stay sober.   I got in a [drug and alcohol] treatment place and John would come visit me.”

She has been clean and sober for six years now.

“Five of those six years John was there to hand me my sobriety cake,” she said. “When life shows up and I need that shoulder to cry on, John is there for me.”

August, 2005 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving by the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

 Marullo’s head is deep into a Mad Swan Bloods vs. Main Street Crip killing.

 Skaggs points at the post officer.

 “You know, Sam, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 “I didn’t know that. Must be a whole lotta letters up in there.”

 LaBarbera said Skaggs solved more of his cases than anyone he knew.  “More than me. More than Barling. He had great persistence.”

Skaggs most famous case was detailed in L.A Times reporter Jill Leovy’s outstanding book “Ghettoside”. All of Skaggs talents are revealed as he successfully investigates the killing of Bryant Alexander Tennelle, son of LAPD homicide detective Wallace Tennelle. 

“If you read the book,”. Leovy said, “It might seem like John is a caricature of a homicide detective, But, in reality, I downplayed him. He really cares deeply about the cases. He has this laser focus. By the way, he thought “Ghettoside” was a book about the [Tennelle] case and everything else in it was just filler.”

Two men were convicted of Tennelle’s murder and both are in prison.

Of, course, all the murders weren’t solved. One of them was the 2006 Watts killing of 25-year-old Anthony Wayne Owens, Jr. shot to death at Imperial Courts housing project.

But, mention Skaggs to Anthony’s mother and she passionately praises him.

“That there is a good man,” says Cynthia Mendenhall, much better known in Watts as community activist Sista Soulja.  When she is told Skaggs is retiring, Sista gets silent for several seconds before saying “For real? You’re gonna make me cry.”

“John Skaggs treated me and my family like we were his family,” said Sista, a former PJ Crip who turned peacemaker and community activist more 20 years ago.  “John was hurt he couldn’t solve Tony’s murder. But, he just couldn’t get what he wanted from the people that knew.  He took it personally.  He is, I guess now was, a great detective. He wasn’t there for the check. He was there for the people.  It was like he was on a mission to catch killers before another innocent life was lost”

Lashell Lewis is mother whose son’s murder was solved by Skaggs. 

In March, 2004, Edwin Johnson, 18, was visiting friends at 97th and Hickory in the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts. A car of rival drove by and Edwin was shot five times.

The mom said that though her son was born in L.A. , he was raised in Big Bear which did not prepare him for the mean streets.

“My son, not being raised in Watts, didn’t know how to dodge bullets,” said Lewis. “I was devastated. I put my faith in John.”

Eight months later, Skaggs having pulled out his main tools – perseverance, charm, trust, sincerity and respect –  solved the case.

“John treated me as a human person with love, kindness and respect,’ said Lewis. “He assured me he would not give up. He treated me, ya know, with love. I think of him not so much as a friend, but more like a big cousin or an uncle.”

March, 2006 – LAPD Officer Sam Marullo and his homicide training officer Det. John Skaggs are driving by the sprawling U.S. Post Office facility on Central and Florence avenues in South Central Los Angeles.

Marullo’s preparing himself to give a “notification” to mother whose 17-year-old son has been killed near Nickerson Gardens.

 Skaggs points at the post office.

 “You know, Sammy, this is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.”

 Marullo doesn’t even look up and just says “They must have stamps for days.”

Marullo, who formally became a homicide detective in February, 2014, is grateful for Skaggs’ mentorship. Still, he enjoys chiding Skaggs about the mail facility.

“Every single time we passed that place he would say that. ‘This is the largest mail facility west of the Mississippi.” And most every time I would act as though I hadn’t already heard that.  

When it came Marullo’s time to train officers, he followed his mentor’s tradition of telling them about the mail facility.

“I would then say, ‘Did I already tell you that?’ and they would say “Yeah, about three times.’ Millennials. I guess I came from a different era because each of the 15 times John told me that, I act as though it was the first time I heard that useless fact.”

Marullo said Skaggs had high expectations of him and that made him work harder and smarter.

“I find myself placing those same expectations on the trainees with whom I've worked.”

Marullo went on.

“John was dedicated to working murders.  He sacrificed half of his life to chasing killers.  He always left a positive impression on the victims' families and always followed through with his promise to do all that he could to find the person who killed their loved one. He is not only a mentor, but a friend.”  

This morning, shortly after 9 a.m., Skaggs landed at LAX after a week in Memphis and headed for his last shift.

“I’m leaving with a ton of great memories and a few bad ones after 30 years of service,” said Skaggs. “It was an awesome ride.”

Maybe if Frank Bullitt and Dirty Harry Callahan were real, they coulda learned a few things from John Skaggs, the big city detective with the small town heart. Check out the photo below. That’s a real homicide detective. Ain’t nothing Hollywood about it.

Skaggs Hollywood

FBI Operative Known As "The Magnet" Said To Be Pizzeria Mozza Newport GM Doug Zamensky

For several years, it was presumed that Pizzeria Mozza Newport general manager Doug Zamensky, the red-headed Idaho native who earned a dubious reputation as one of America's most likely robbery victims, was simply a small-town guy. in over his head in the big, bad city.

Friday however, Krikorian Writes, the Washington Post and Orange County Register all broke the story that Zamensky is actually a highly regarded operative known as "The Magnet" working with the FBI to draw out some of the most hardened criminals in Southern California. 

The FBI would neither confirm or deny the reports, however sources in the fabled agency leaked a shocking video of a stolen taxi cab speeding into the parking lot of Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Highway with a Newport Police Department SUV hot on its tail. Seconds later, as the parking valet watches. four policemen are seen sprinting back toward PCH in hot pursuit of the suspects who jumped the wall separating the restaurant from a Ferrari dealership.

In a separate video obtained by Krikorian Writes only,  Zamensky is briefly seen looking out of a Mozza door to the parking lot waiting. according to the sources, for the stolen cab to appear. A mere 31 seconds after Zamensky opened the door to the parking lot, the stolen cab appears and the suspects exit and run off.

A source explained how Zamensky became "The Magnet."

"The first robbery was legit,"  said a law enforcement sources speaking on the condition of anonymity and referring to an armed La Brea Avenue holdup in which Zamensky was the victim. "But, RHD (LAPD'S Robbery Homicide Division) started using Doug as a set up victim.  They'd put Doug in an area and watch him. Pretty soon he would get robbed. We got Rollin 60s, Grape, Florencia, even remnants of the old Weather Underground. Doug became known as 'Th Magnet'. He's a legend."

In the latest case in Newport, the taxi cabs thieves were allegedly part of a ring that would steal just about anything and sell it at the swap meet. One of the alleged robbers is said to have a warrant out for his arrest issued by RHD. 

Zamensky could not be reached for comment. 

 

 

 

The Tweets Of Bana Alabed, 7-Year-Old Girl in Aleppo

Sept. 26, 2016 - good afternoon from #Aleppo I'm reading to forget the war

 

Oct. 27, 2016 The tooth fairy is afraid of the bombing here, it run away to its hole. When the war finishes, it will come- Bana

Bana tooth ferry

 

Nov. 28   This is our house, My beloved dolls died in the bombing of our house. I am very sad but happy to be alive. - Bana

bna dolls

 

Nov. 29, 2016 This is my reading place where I wanted to start reading Harry Potter but it's bombed. I will never forget

bana reading

 

 

From Bana's mother, Fatemah

Dec. 5  Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye - Fatemah #Aleppo

Dec. 12 Final message - I am very sad no one is helping us in this world, no one is evacuating me & my daughter. Goodbye - Fatemah #aleppo

From Bana

Dec. 13, 2016  My name is Bana, I'm 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. - Bana

 

From Bana's mother, Fatemah

Dec. 14, 4:27 a.m  Dear world, there' intense bombing right now. Why are you silent? Why? Why? Why? Fear is killing me & my kids. #Aleppo

 

 

 

 

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