Following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile this week, I heard somebody say that there was nothing new.
Only now there are videos.
Growing up in Los Angeles we had a police department that was headed by a guy named William Parker. His department was notorious for its racist treatment of African Americans, Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
In 1966 Leonard Deadwyler was driving his pregnant wife to a hospital. There were no hospitals in the Deadwylers’ South Central neighborhood. With his wife in labor, Leonard Deadwyler raced through the streets of L.A., speeding through some red lights. He was pulled over. With a gun already drawn, LAPD officer Jerold Bova reached into the car and shot and killed Leonard Deadwyler.
Bova claimed the car jerked forward, accidentally causing his gun to go off. Although there were no phone video cameras in 1966, there were plenty of witnesses that Bova had lied and that the car never jerked forward. Nor could anyone explain why Bova drew his gun and had it inside the car for a routine traffic stop.
Yet African American witnesses were not to be believed.
The community filled the Los Angeles court room for the Los Angeles Coroner’s inquest of the killing of Leonard Deadwyler.
A coroner’s inquest ruled in favor officer Bova and ignored the eye witness testimony. They ruled the killing was an accident.
Protests were held, organized by Students for a Democratic Society, which I was a member of, and civil rights organizations in Los Angeles’ Black community.
Following the ruling by the Coroner, the Deadwyler family sued. You may have heard of their lawyer:
One result of the suit and protests was that a hospital was finally built in South Central.
It is said that Cochran dates his true understanding of the role of the police in the African American community from his work on the Leonard Deadwyler case.
All that has changed is now there are videos.