Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Monday called for a federal investigation of the Inglewood Police Department following the fatal shootings of three people within a three month period by members of the police department.
Waters said she had dispatched a letter to the U. S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Friday formerly requesting that the U. S. Department of Justice and its Civil Rights Division investigate allegations of police misconduct.
Waters said she also plans to uncover whether the Inglewood Police Department has engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination or violated federal civil rights or criminal law.
“Over the last few years, there have been several complaints related to beating, shootings and questionable police conduct in the city of Inglewood,” Waters read from the letter sent to Attorney General Mukasey. “Most recently, in a three month period, three individuals have been fatally shot by members of the Inglewood Police Department. Two of those individuals were fatally shot by the same officer in separate incidents.”
In the letter, Waters referred to the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Michael Byoune, who was shot and killed (by Officer Brian Ragan), on Mother’s Day, May 11, in the 3000 block of Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood. “Another young man, Larry White, was seriously injured in the same incident,” stated Waters. “Press reports indicate that these young men were unarmed customers of a neighborhood hamburger stand when they were shot. According to press reports, there was no indication of any wrongdoing by these young men. After a brief suspension, Officer Ragan, was allowed to return to active duty.”
Waters then referred to the shooting of Kevin Wicks, who was shot on July 21, 2008. “In what appears to be another example of poor judgment, Officer Ragan fatally shot Mr. Wicks. All that we have at this point are press reports which indicate that police were called to the area to respond to a domestic dispute around 12:30 a.m. Mr. Wicks was alone in his apartment before the shooting and subsequent press reports indicate that the police went to the wrong location and failed to identify themselves,” stated Waters.
“Considering the other shootings, beatings and instances of questionable police conduct, I believe an investigation by the Civil Rights Division is needed, similar to one previously undertaken to review serious problems within the Los Angles Police Department,” stated Waters. “My constituents need to know that if there is a pattern and practice of discrimination or other police misconduct, the Department of Justice will act with all deliberate speed to end these practices and ensure that their civil rights are protected.”
Residents and community activists are questioning the decision surrounding the reinstatement of Inglewood officer Ragan after he was cited for killing Michael Byoune. Another victm, Ruben Ortega, was fatally shot in an involved in an officer-involved shooting.
Flanked by Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, two dozen activists and relatives of the victims outside of Inglewood City Hall, Waters vowed to aggressively keep abreast of the federal investigation in the wake of the shootings. “I want to express condolences to all the family members of police shootings in the city and we must take all necessary steps to find out why there have been an unusual number of shootings in such a short period of time. There is a widespread concern and long-standing doubts surrounding the Inglewood Police Department that requires a comprehensive and thorough investigation into allegations of bad judgment, brutality and abuse.”
Pausing, Waters added, “I’m dissatisfied with the lack of serious responsibility surrounding the killings of African American men all over the country, whether it’s in New York or Chicago. I was in Oakland and the same thing (killings of African American men) is happening there. There are too many killings, especially of black men here in Inglewood. We have a history of police abuse in the city of Inglewood and there needs to be an investigation to see if there is a pattern of misconduct and abuse involved here.”
Waters continued, “Inglewood residents do not trust the Inglewood Police Department and we must request a thorough investigation by the U. S. Department of Justice. We expect a thorough investigation and we expect some answers.”
Mayor Dorn said that he supported a state and federal investigation into the recent shooting incidents and added that the city council recommended at its Tuesday meeting the appointment of an Independent Counsel to review the actions of the police department.
During a question-and-answer period, one attendee asked whether Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks should resign. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that she step down,” said Waters. “She called me late last night and she fully supports an investigation.” Earlier in the press conference, Waters observed, “She knew that there were problems with the department. She is the police chief, the buck stops with her. She has to be a part of whatever changes take place.”
Waters further indicated, “We have a lot of experience with internal investigations. I don’t trust a police department to investigate itself. We have to kick this up a notch and go with a federal investigation because we know something is wrong in Inglewood.”
Mitchell Williams, president of the Inglewood NAACP, said that the organization had sent letters demanding a formal investigation on behalf of the citizens of Inglewood. “We’ve gotten a lot of complaints of abuse by the Inglewood Police Department,” said Williams. “We want to determine if the civil rights of Inglewood residents are being violated.”
“I think it’s a very serious problem when an officer who has just been involved in an officer-involved shooting is involved in the same activity again,” said Attorney Anthony Willoughby. Referring to Wicks, who police reports indicate was holding a gun when he opened his apartment door before he was fatally shot, “I think it’s highly improbable that a black man would open his door holding a gun at 12:30 a.m. in the morning. I think this policeman (who shot Wicks), was trigger happy from the beginning.”
“It is absolutely unfortunate to see the same policeman back on the streets who was involved in a previous shooting,” said Rev. Dr Lewis Logan II of Bethel AME Church. It’s absolutely unconscionable that this same policeman has been in the same circumstance. We need to find out the truth and whether the Inglewood Police Department is attempting to justify the misuse of lethal force.”
Funeral services for Kevin Wicks are scheduled for Thursday, July 31 at Faithful Central Bible Church at the Tabernacle at 10 a.m.