Alexa

LA residents: Police harassment spawned outrage

 People listen to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck during a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief ...
 Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck attends a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police  Chief Charlie Beck ha...
 A man yells as he listens to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck during a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles p...
 A man holds up a Guatemala flag while asking a question at a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police  Chief Ch...
 People arrive for a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has been greeted by boos, whist...

Fatal Police Shooting

People listen to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck during a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief ...

Fatal Police Shooting

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck attends a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck ha...

Fatal Police Shooting

A man yells as he listens to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck during a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles p...

Fatal Police Shooting

A man holds up a Guatemala flag while asking a question at a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief Ch...

Fatal Police Shooting

People arrive for a community meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010. Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has been greeted by boos, whist...

A city all too familiar with civil unrest was caught by surprise by the level of outrage over the fatal police shooting of an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who was menacing officers with a knife.
The officers were Hispanic and witnesses backed up their claims that Manuel Jamines threatened them.
And yet, protesters hurled eggs, bottles and rocks at a police station over the past several days and jeered the police chief when he tried to explain in front of a raucous community meeting.
For many in the gritty Westlake neighborhood, the shooting was the last straw. Amid the poverty and chronic joblessness, some residents say, officers mistreated them and were overly harsh in their enforcement of city ordinances.
"They are messing with people all the time," said Juan Lorenzo, a day laborer who knew Jamines.
Lorenzo claimed the officer who shot Jamines _ Frank Hernandez _ was disliked by many in the community because he would often ticket people for selling food on the street and would sometimes throw the food in the trash.
Beyond complaints from several residents about the police conduct, there were no easy answers to explain why the community has reacted with such anger over the shooting.
The neighborhood just west of downtown has been cleaned up in recent years, most notably with police reclaiming MacArthur Park, a recreation area that was once a no-go zone to all but gang members and drug dealers.
Now, day laborers wait for construction jobs that sometimes don't come for days on end.
On the corner where Jamines was killed, outside the parking lot next to a 99-cent store, a newspaper box was turned into a memorial. A heart-shaped bouquet was tied to the box and a photo of Jamines was taped alongside.
Lozano, also from Guatemala, leaned against a metal railing on the corner.
He said he did not believe the police account of the shooting and said officers had planted a knife near Jamines's body. He had no proof, but said the folding weapon looked more like the kind of tactical blade a police officer would carry.
Chief Charlie Beck and other officials have blamed outside radical groups, including the Revolutionary Communist Party, of stirring up anger and provoking the rioting.
Mike Prysner, an organizer with activist group the Answer Coalition, said the anger is endemic to the community.
"It's a common tactic by the police to try to blame community outrage on outside agitators," Prysner said. "In reality the outside agitators were the police who came into the community and attacked peaceful vigils."
Still, Prysner acknowledged that activists do play a role in helping residents express their frustrations.
Members of a different activist group on Thursday produced for the media a woman who said she witnessed the shooting and who presented a version of events at odds with what other witnesses told police.
The woman, who only gave her first name Ana, said she was out shopping on Sunday and, from her vantage point on the sidewalk across the street, saw Jamines get shot.
Contrary to accounts from six other witnesses, she said, Jamines was not holding a knife.
"The police said 'drop the weapon,' and the man looked at them like he'd been drinking," she said in Spanish. "But he was holding nothing, absolutely nothing."
Police Capt. Kris Pitcher, who is overseeing the shooting investigation, said Ana had been identified at the scene but detectives had not yet interviewed her.
Hernandez, who has been placed on administrative leave after the shooting, was involved in as many as three earlier shootings, Capt. Pitcher said.
The Los Angeles Times first reported that he shot a female robbery suspect in 1999 when the woman allegedly pointed a handgun at Hernandez and his partner and refused orders to drop the weapon. Her injury was not life-threatening.
In 2008, the Times reported, Hernandez shot an 18-year-old assault suspect who tried to flee, then pointed a gun at Hernandez and another officer. Hernandez shot the man once, wounding him.
Tomas Gomez, the brother-in-law of Jamines, said his relative came from a tiny hamlet in the rugged mountainous region of western Guatemala, the province of Solola, where he was married and had three young sons, the oldest of whom is eight.
Gomez said life was a struggle for Jamines and his family, whose native language is Quiche, one of about 20 Mayan dialects spoken in Guatemala. He only spoke a little Spanish and no English.
"They didn't have enough to eat," Gomez said.
Jamines decided to seek work in the U.S. a little more than five years ago. Another brother in law and Gomez came later.
Here he worked as a day laborer, mainly doing construction odd jobs, which he obtained at the local Home Depot. Jamines rented a room in an apartment near the Home Depot.
At times, he felt trapped and grew sad at being so far from his family, Gomez said. "He didn't have the money to go back, he wasn't getting a lot of work here," he said. "There were weeks when he wouldn't get any work."
Jamines liked to drink beer on the weekends, and was a drinker back in Guatemala, too.
Gomez said Jamines was not aggressive or violent. He had never seen him with a knife. He said he believes the police are inventing the story about the knife to justify killing Jamines.
"That's a falsehood by the police," he said.
___
Associated Press Writer Christina Hoag in Los Angeles and Juan Carlos Llorca in Guatemala contributed to this report.