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Devin Brown

13 Year old killed by LAPD officer

compiled from various sources
4WardEver Campaign 30th June 2007

Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

Devin Brown was shot dead by an LA police officer at the end of a three minute car chase in which he was either the driver or passenger of a vehicle that may or may not have been stolen. Candles and balloons adorn the corner next to Tony’s Tyres where the car mounted the kerb before reversing towards the police car.

Handwritten placards expressed the anger and resentment that had been building up since the shooting. “Baby killer LAPD,” reads one. Others say: “Stop. Look before you shoot” and “LAPD, thank you for giving us another reason for disliking your service.”

The shooting sparked anger in the impoverished, largely African American community of South Los Angeles, and left the police department once again facing accusations of brutality. Shortly after Devin’s death, a march and rally revealed raw tensions.  John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League, called it a “tragic and needless shooting.” He told reporters: “We have a pattern here where some police officers don’t value the lives of young African American males. There’s a frustration here that’s building up and makes it difficult to build a partnership with police.”

Bo Taylor, a former gang member and founder of Unity One, was more direct: “Many of these kids have nothing to live for and aren’t afraid to die. You wanted a war on gangs; you’re going to get what you asked for. You’re on your way out.”  The sentiments were echoed by the Nation of Islam’s Tony Muhammad who said: “We have been sent a message that we cannot get justice, “It is a messed up message to young people who are going to start taking justice into their own hands.

“We are now going to have a problem between the black community and the police where there is already tension. We could have an all-out war.” The city’s police chief, Bill Bratton, knew that the situation was volatile, and asked community leaders to temper their remarks. “Why would anyone who is interested in seeing justice done, who lives in the city and cares about the people, want to incite people needlessly?”

So unclear are the facts surrounding the brief chase and shooting that Chief Bratton asked the FBI to investigate. Police records show that two officers in a patrol car tried to stop the 1990 Toyota car after it jumped a red light. When it failed to stop, they followed it onto the freeway and noticed it was being driven erratically.

The officers thought they were dealing with a drunken driver and followed as the car left the freeway. It failed to make a turn at a junction and then mounted the kerb. The police car stopped behind. At this point, one of the two people inside the Toyota, a 14-year-old boy, ran away. He was arrested near the scene. The remaining person reversed the car, scraping along the side of the police car. Officer Steven Garcia fired 10 shots, killing the 13-year-old.

Initially, police said the victim was a gang member, although they never repeated that claim. Family members say that although the boy was having problems following the death of his father six months previously, he was not in a gang. The police also said the car was stolen, but there was no record of it being reported.

There were already concerns about the LAPD’s tactics when faced with stolen vehicles. A year before Devin’s killing; a man was shot by officers at the end of a chase as he slowly reversed his car towards police. The incident was captured on live television. At the time of that incident Chief Bratton announced that he would introduce more stringent controls on officers firing at moving vehicles.

The situation was further inflamed by the impending mayor election in Los Angeles. The incumbent, James Hahn, who was seeking re-election, criticised Bratton, saying: “We should have had this policy developed. I’m not going to accept any excuses on why we need to wait any longer… We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

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