Tag Archive for police violence

Allegedly intoxicated, lightless bike rider fatally shot by Sheriff’s deputies in South L.A.

Yes, it’s against the law to ride a bike under the influence.

And yes, bike riders are legally required to have both a headlight, and at the very least, a rear reflector.

But the first is just a misdemeanor with a maximum $250 fine. And the second is usually just a fix-it ticket, often dismissed if the rider can prove he or she has put lights on the bike in question.

Neither usually punishable by the death penalty.

Yet that’s what happened over the weekend as a 50-year old bike rider was shot and killed in South L.A.

The L.A. Sheriff’s Department reports that the man, identified by KACB-7 as Terry Laffitte, was riding without lights and appeared to be drunk when he was spotted by Sheriff’s deputies at 9:12 pm Saturday on Miramonte Blvd in unincorporated L.A. County.

When the deputies tried to stop him, he continued riding to his home in the 6100 block of Miramonte. The officers followed him to the back of his home, where he reportedly punched one of them in the face, leading to a scuffle that eventually included members of his family who tried to pull the officers off Laffitte.

During the fight, he allegedly pulled out a gun, leading both deputies to fire a single shot each; Laffitte died at the scene.

The L.A. Times reports that two guns were found on the man, one of which was a replica.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, both Laffitte and members of his family who lived at the house are known gang members.

However, according to the report from KABC-7, family members say the shooting was unjustified.

“My brother was on the ground. They had his hands behind his back,” said Laffitte’s sister, Sandra Cotton. “He didn’t have a gun. Why would you shoot him if he was already on the ground and you guys had possession of him?”

Laffitte’s sister said the altercation was recorded on a cellphone, but she claims the device was confiscated by the sheriff’s department. Detectives said no cellphones were confiscated.

Family members said Laffitte had turned his life around and did not carry guns.

Of course, claims like that are easy to make.

But sometimes, they turn out to be true. Kern County Sheriff’s deputies are accused of illegally confiscating cell phones from people who witnessed a fatal police beating in the Bakersfield area — and allegedly deleting a video of the incident.

So let’s be clear about one thing.

You have a 1st Amendment right to record anything that occurs in public, whether or not it involves the police. And without a subpoena, they have no more right to take your phone or camera, or confiscate any photos or video on it, than anyone else on the street.

Less in fact, since police are required to protect the rights of the public and adhere to legal standards that the general public isn’t.

And while it happens far less often than some would suggest, it is also not unheard of for officers to plant a gun following an illegal shooting. I once knew a cop in another city who made a point of carrying a cheap handgun to drop at the scene in case he ever shot an unarmed person — and according to him, had used it in at least one case.

Of course, there’s nothing to suggest that’s what happened here, other than the statements of family members whose credibility has already been challenged by the gang accusations.

But even gang members have rights. And clearly, the LASD has some questions to answer.

Like how a simple misdemeanor traffic stop was allowed to escalate into fatal altercation.

And it’s not the first time it’s happened.

Riverside police assault May Day cyclists; accused DUI hit-and-run driver Juli Ann Brown goes to court

Police in Riverside apparently make up the law as they go along during that city’s May Day protest, ordering bikes out of the street and onto the sidewalk — despite a local ban on sidewalk riding.

And despite the fact that the riders were just a block from their destination.

Then they forcibly stopped the riders by pulling a police car across their path, jumping out of a patrol car with Taser drawn, and tackling a rider off his/her bike.

Regardless of whether the riders may or may not have committed a traffic infraction, using a Taser on a cyclist or knocking a rider off his or her bike is a serious use of force, with a high potential to result in injuries to the rider — and potentially serious, if not deadly, consequences.

Any officer who resorts to such physical violence against department policy to enforce a perceived traffic violation is in serious need of training. If not dismissal from the force.

And any police department that condones it should be reined in by city officials.

If not a lawsuit.

………

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent sat in on Monday’s preliminary hearing for Juli Ann Brown, the woman accused of running down three cyclists in a drunken hit-and-run.

Juli Ann Brown had her preliminary hearing Monday in Judge Margaret A. Anderson’s courtroom. Starting the proceeding was an arraignment for an amended complaint. One of the enhancements was upgraded from 12022.7(a) to 12022.7(c), which suggests that one of her victims was over 70 years old. Naturally the plea is still not guilty.

Officer Michael Ezroj of the Seal Beach Police Department, first on the scene at the Taco Surf parking lot where the cyclists had gathered after the assault, conducted recorded witness interviews and collected physical evidence (pieces of the suspect’s vehicle). All witnesses stated that after hitting the cyclists in the bike lane, the vehicle had stopped a very short way up the road, straddling the lane marker, and had then fled. When notified by Huntington Beach PD that they had pulled the suspect over, Ezroj left the scene to identify and question the suspect.

Just minutes after receiving the description of the suspect’s vehicle, HBPD Officer Johnathan Deliema observed a vehicle matching that description travelling southbound on PCH. He made a U-turn and followed her in the #1 lane. While behind Brown’s vehicle, he observed the vehicle drift partially into the #2 lane not once but twice. Brown, the driver, then engaged her right-turn signal and attempted to merge into the occupied #2 lane, causing another vehicle to take evasive action. At this point, Officer Deliema hit the lights and sirens. Incidentally, this all took place at approximately 40 miles per hour, within a distance of less than a third of a mile.

Officer Deliema observed Brown’s slurred speech and unsteady gait, and asked about the damage to the right front side of her vehicle, Brown claimed she had been shopping at Von’s in Long Beach earlier that morning and discovered the damage when she returned to the parking lot, but had not notified the police because she was late to a doctor’s appointment in Huntington Beach. Asked for her driver’s license, she immediately confessed it was suspended. Officer Deliema initiated a Romberg test, to which Brown complied, and which she failed miserably.

When Officer Ezroj arrived, he noted the damaged vehicle matching the suspect vehicle’s description and also observed in the interior a small baggie filled with an unknown white powder and two short plastic straws. He asked Brown if she knew why she had been pulled over and she stated, “I was told that I hit a motorcycle or something.”

HBPD Officer Nick Nicholas arrived on the scene. In his two years with Huntington Beach, he’s administered an estimated 130 field sobriety tests, and he proceeded to test Ms. Brown, who claimed physical limitations with her lower extremities (which she had not divulged to Office Deliema) and was therefore excused from the walk-a-straight-line and stand-and-turn bits. Officer Nicholas also allowed her to fudge a bit on the Romberg, and she still failed it.

Then it was time to recess for lunch, and I had to split. Kinda disappointing to miss half the witnesses, but the exciting news is that Brown’s next scheduled court appearance is an arraignment- a very good indication that she has already simply agreed to whatever plea deal the prosecution has offered. Looking forward to that.

………

Could someone give these kids their darn bike lanes already?

Seriously, I think they’ve earned them.

………

In an interesting experiment, Malibu shifts street cleaning on PCH from Mondays to Fridays, in hopes of having safer streets for weekend cyclists.

It’s a small step, but could make a big difference — especially if they extend cleaning to the shoulders where cyclists usually ride. And it’s a huge shift in attitude from the formerly bike-unfriendly city.

Thanks to the ‘Bu master bike advocate Eric Bruins for the heads-up.

………

Bike lanes almost magically appear on a short, uncontested section of Sepulveda Blvd. Writing for Flying Pigeon, Richard Risemberg calls for a different sort of road diet on York Blvd; if you can find a copy of Momentum magazine, you can read Rick’s bicycle visitor’s guide to the city. Is CicLAvia headed to points east anytime soon? Bikerowave is conducting a series of bike repair and purchasing classes this month. Why the Amgen Tour of California cyclists won’t be riding Santa Monica Blvd through the biking black hole of Beverly Hills later this month. Celebrate bike month with Better Bike, who says the city’s bike route pilot project leaves a lot on the table. Culver City needs volunteers for bike counts on May 19th and 23rd. The Pasadena Star-News says it’s time to make bikeways the new freeways; I couldn’t agree more. The Claremont Cyclist offers his typically great observations on last weekend’s Chuck Pontius Memorial Crit. Join new LACBC affiliate chapter Pomona Valley Bike Coalition for a casual, 24-mile Art Ride this Saturday; can’t speak for you, but I’m loving the way these affiliate chapters spread bike advocacy to the far reaches of the county.

The San Diego woman who traded her car for a bike at last year’s Tour de Fat is still riding. The San Diego Reader says in a world where everyone dopes, it’s wickedly unfair for Floyd Landis; if he had just accepted his suspension instead of lying to everyone about it, it might have been a different outcome. Head to Paso Robles for a full four days of biking on Memorial Day weekend. The Mercury News explains the meaning of sharrows and gets it mostly right if you exchange “must” for “should” here and there. No, seriously — if you’re carrying rock cocaine, put a damn light on your bike. A San Francisco reporter documents his own harassment of cyclists, along with getting the whole concept of bike safety wrong. A disabled Sonoma cyclist is beaten and stabbed in an early morning assault. Right now, you can conduct your own personal ciclovia on the carless roads of Yosemite.

The Bike League and Sierra Club team up to ask Congress to stop giving cyclists the shaft. The surprising aerodynamics of bicycling; link courtesy of cyclist and CD13 City Council candidate Josh Post, who I never heard of before Tuesday, but I’m liking already. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske says we all need to stand up to biased anti-bike policing. The media doesn’t exactly look favorably on the car-free among us; link courtesy of Streetsblog. Gotta like this one, as U.S. Air Force cyclists take 2nd and 3rd in the Wounded Warrior Games; just the fact that they’re still competing says volumes. Even Houston is getting a bike share program. A fallen Austin TX cyclist did nothing wrong, but that still doesn’t stop some from blaming scofflaw cyclists; seriously, don’t these people have any shame? A Boston Whole Foods bike parking fail. Evidently, road rage fisticuffs directed at cyclists isn’t just an L.A. problem, as a New York driver beats the crap out of a bike rider who tapped on his car to warn him he was too close; note to motorists — if someone on a bike can touch your vehicle, you’re too damn close.

A UK police official says drivers who kill should face life in prison. A Scot cyclist barely avoids death just days after attending the Ride on Parliament. Great anti-drunk driving campaign from Fiat. Three Korean pro cyclists are killed when their team is rammed by a truck on a training ride. China’s Red Cross is accused of running a bike scam. Who needs a bike lock when you’ve got a bike riding guard dog?

Finally, drunken Florida grandparents face charges after towing their granddaughter behind their SUV in a toy car secured by dog leashes.

………

Let Wednesday’s suicide of future Hall of Fame and former USC football player Junior Seau serve as a reminder that you never know what’s going on in someone’s life unless you ask. Take a moment to reach out to those you love, and don’t take a casual “everything’s okay” as an answer.

There are far too many Richard Corys in this world.

And sometimes, hope can seem to be in very short supply.

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