In South Central L.A., no joy New indictments too little, too late,residents say.

August 06, 1992|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- On the streets of South Central Los Angeles, there was no celebration, no rejoicing over the news that four white police officers would be tried in federal court for the beating of black motorist Rodney King.

Instead, some wary residents -- who daily pass vacant lots and burned-out shells of buildings that are a testament to last spring's riots -- find the idea of another trial little cause for enthusiasm.

Too little too late, they say, adding that the damage already was done when the state-court trial ended not with guilty verdicts, but acquittals on all but one charge that ended in a hung jury.

Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Sgt. Stacey Koon were to surrender today on federal charges they violated Mr. King's civil rights in the motorist's beating last year.

"The officers were charged with stomping, kicking and beating King," Lourdes G. Baird, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference yesterday.

"It was an unreasonable use of force."

But even if there is a conviction this time, people in the riot-torn community ask, what of other brutality allegations that never gained the notoriety of the King case?

"Justice was not done last time and justice won't be done this time," said Robert Flannigan, 44, as he walked past the intersection of Florence and Normandie, where rioting erupted on April 29 after the acquittals in state court.

"People like us don't have a chance here," said Mr. Flannigan, a black who said minorities simply don't get a fair shake in the justice system.

Guilty verdicts against the officers won't change that feeling, Mr. Flannigan said, noting that a truer test of the system will come from another case -- the trial of four black men charged with beating white truck driver Reginald Denny at the outset of the riots.

"The real thing boiling up is if these black kids go to jail," Mr. Flannigan said.

At Tom's Liquor store, the only building to survive the riot on the four corners at the intersection of Florence and Normandie, people said that the federal trial of the officers would do little to change what they say is a pattern of police abuse in the black community.

Will Brazil, 37, said he wonders whether conducting another trial is worth the risk. He said he fears that another set of acquittals could touch off a reprise of the violence that left 60 dead and caused about $800 million damage.

"If they do have another trial it's just going to bring up more tension," Mr. Brazil said.

Those who applauded the indictments did so warily.

"I have faith in the system," said Willetta Denham, 50, selling Afrocentric hats on Crenshaw Boulevard. She paused a moment and then added, "God is a just God and He wasn't going to let them get away with it."

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