Sister Responds to ‘Bad Apple Cops’

I would like to respond to the “Bad Apple Cops” article recently published and a letter you received in regard to it. First off it is important for me to state that my family and I are East Long Beach residents and have been since the day I was born. My brother Douglas’ 8-year-old son was born in Long Beach. My mother has been a teacher in the PACE program at Long Beach Poly High School for 25 years and is also the head of the math department.

I, as well all my siblings were raised in East Long Beach, attended school in Long Beach and have always had utmost respect for the LBPD. We had no reason not to and have called them infrequently over the years and for the most part they have always been helpful. We are not “cop haters” in any way, shape or form. My brother Douglas was also a law-abiding citizen with utmost respect for the LBPD. We have a photo of him taken a few years back proudly standing next to an officer, in fact.

Let’s start with the facts. I will not address the “facts” that we uncovered when Douglas’s body was released to us, such as the discrepancies surrounding how many shots the chief of police said were fired, how many bullet holes were actually in my brother’s body and how the wound pattern clearly indicated he was not holding his hands out in front of him pointing the “water nozzle.”

LBPD Chief McDonnell stated the following in a televised press conference that can easily be found on youtube:

• The suspect pointed the water nozzle “in the direction of an officer” — this is very different than at an officer.

• The LBPD made no verbal or visual contact with Douglas at any time

• The suspect was in a seated position with his legs out in front of him crossed. (gosh, that is such an aggressive threatening position)

• The suspect was visibly intoxicated

• The shooting occurred in a very affluent area in Long Beach — Belmont Shore

• The suspect was in a contained courtyard/backyard area — on private property.

• The officers were all in positions of cover and observed the suspect for 10-15 minutes (not enough time to get out their binoculars or load their weapons with rubber bullets)

Now just to point out some food for thought for your readers: How do you point something at someone that is hiding, that you cannot see, and has not announced themselves to you? It is impossible.

The first televised newscast that aired the night my brother was shot made no mention of him pointing anything at anyone. A very different picture was painted by the representative that spoke to the media for the LBPD. The story radically changed the next morning during Chief McDonnell’s televised press conference.

Also what we as a family were told by two homicide detectives and Sgt. Herzog of the LBPD the night my brother was shot was very different than the story the police chief told during the press conference.

Lastly my brother was shot sitting down. He never stood up — another confirmed tidbit by the LBPD. How do you aggressively point any item at the invisibly hidden police department while sitting down with your legs crossed leaning against a stairway banister so intoxicated you can’t keep your head up?

So in summary and just to be clear — based on the exact statements made by Police Chief McDonnell one can conclude that — any resident of East Long Beach could be minding their own business on private property and a neighbor could call and say they have a weapon and the police can come and sneak up on them, not announce themselves and from positions of cover —inside surrounding houses — can fire at them six times with a hand gun and two times with a shotgun (Which is the number and type of shots the chief said were fired at Douglas. We dispute this — there were many more) and the responsibility of the citizen’s death would fall on that citizen.

The chief stated we are all responsible for our own actions and that Douglas’ death was a result of his own actions. Let me remind you he was sitting on his best friend’s porch because he had drank too much while watching Sunday football on 2nd street and made the very responsible choice not to drive his vehicle. Had he been irresponsible, reckless and driven drunk — he would likely still be alive today. Something is so wrong with what I just wrote.

This is a much bigger issue, sadly. What if your child was playing with an air soft gun, squirt gun, nerf gun or any other type of toy that slightly resembles a firearm and didn’t know there were officers surrounding him and he was shot and killed. This could happen and the LBPD would say it was justified based on the actions of the child.

There are policies and procedures for reasons and they were not followed in the case of my brother. Officers make mistakes and in Douglas’s case it was a grave mistake. But to not accept responsibility and to act or impose as your prior letter writer did that there aren’t any bad apples in the police department is a joke. No person is perfect and not everyone who is attracted to a career in law enforcement nobly heeds that call because of their desire to protect and serve.

Statistics show that kids that were bullied and picked on are attracted to law enforcement, war veterans that are trained killers are attracted to law enforcement after their military career ends, etc. There are also a huge number of amazing people that work in law enforcement, put their lives on the line every single day and we are grateful for them.

I’m just saying they are not all knights on white horses … and sadly to leave these bad apples in the barrel with all the healthy, crisp ones makes them all look unappealing. Shame on the LBPD for subjecting upstanding officers to all of this terrible scrutiny by leaving them in the barrel!

We live in East Long Beach people. There are no gang wars here. My brother was shot in Belmont Shore. He was wearing flip flops, shorts, a tank top and his beat up old freestyle surfing watch. Really intimidating. All the LBPD had to say was “stop or we will shoot.” He never had a chance. Four words would have saved my brother’s life –“Long Beach Police Department.”

How officers that were in positions of cover were so fearful for their lives that they shot him firing squad style, I will never understand. The recent Tucson shooter was not killed. The recent school board shooter was not killed. They were subdued, apprehended and taken into custody.

These were people shooting and killing other human beings not sitting drunk on private property with a water nozzle. (And our hearts are broken for those families experiencing loss at the hands of these horrible men. We truly empathize and personally know the pain of their losses.)

And, yes, it really is that simple readers. He wasn’t yelling, arguing, confronting anyone, acting out, he hadn’t committed a crime, offended anyone. He was just sitting on his friend’s back porch in a contained courtyard minding his own business and now he is dead. Really scary. Something is seriously wrong here and it goes way deeper than just my brother’s death.

As of today the LBPD has placed a security seal on my brother’s autopsy (so as his family we cannot get it); has blocked the release of all the names of the officers involved in the shooting; will not return our phone calls; and all of our elected city officials will not comment directly on what is going on or what happened.

After our second rally held at City Hall, numerous phone calls and emails to our City Council representatives we were finally afforded the opportunity to address the Council at their meeting on the 18th.

Fifteen minutes after our comment time concluded Vice Mayor Lowenthal revisited our topic. She sincerely offered her heartfelt condolences but never addressed the actual issue at hand. While she was doing so Chief McDonnell chose to stand up and exit the City Council meeting— another slap in the face. My family and I are all for the police- we are just absolutely adamantly opposed to a police state.

We have endured criticism for hiring a lawyer, joining together to peacefully protest and hold rallies demanding answers from the police department and our elected officials. What other choices do we have?

There is no manual that came with the body of our dead brother as to how to handle something like this. We want the truth; we want justice and a transparent investigation. So far were not getting any of them.
Let me ask your readers this question: Would you just sit back and let the chips fall where they may if you knew the LBPD was lying, not cooperating, trying to hide the facts and your loved one had been killed? I can most certainly answer for them — they would not. It is ridiculous to believe for one second that the LBPD are capable of objectively, fairly and justly investigating themselves.

To say to us that the LA District Attorney’s office is conducting their own independent investigation is not so comforting either. Chief McDonnell used to work for the LAPD before he came to Long Beach and it is not a far stretch to say he has strong ties with the DA’s office.

Sadly the only way to keep the public/residents of Long Beach informed as well as my brothers story alive and to continually put pressure on the LBPD and our cities elected officials to investigate the actions and improper utilization of the policies/procedures that the City Council require the LBPD to follow is to: gather, protest and shed light on how this situation is really being handled by the people we currently entrust to keep us safe.

The police department and its officers bare an even greater sense of responsibility for their actions than the average citizen. We put them in a position of authority, arm them with weapons and pay them to protect and serve us. It is imperative to every citizen of this city that there be transparency and accountability for every single officer’s actions.

It could have been your brother, son or child and, sadly, it will likely happen to another innocent victim. Hopefully our commitment to pursuing justice, absolute truth and our dedication to shining a bright light on the LBPD and what happened to my brother will subsequently save the life of another innocent person.

You cannot shoot another human being as law enforcement when they have not committed a crime, are not confrontational, hostile, aggressive or threatening, and are on private property without identifying yourselves first and you can’t say someone pointed something at someone that they didn’t know was even there.

In the [1963] words of Martin Luther King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”