By Hal Collier

The following story is true.  I’ll use first names unless there is a civil rights issue.  This story will deal with my experiences during the L.A. Riots.  I don’t usually put politics in my stories, but after 35 years of being politically correct in the L.A.P.D. I can’t be quiet anymore.  These opinions are mine alone and are in direct contrast to the opinions of the L.A. Times, but I don’t care!  We were told to refer to the riots as civil unrest. BS, there was nothing civil about what happened.

Rodney King video ignited LA riots photo courtesy photoblog600
Rodney King video ignited LA riots
photo courtesy photoblog600

In March of 1991, the CHP pursued a speeding car into the San Fernando Valley.  The car stopped and the passengers were arrested without incident.  The driver, Rodney King, resisted arrest and even charged the officers.  L.A.P.D. officers took over the incident because the CHP Officers were placing themselves in danger.  The arrest was videotaped and broadcast on all TV the stations for months.  The media conveniently omitted the first few seconds which show King resisting arrest.  King was described as a black motorist by the media when in fact he was a paroled convict and under the influence.  A trial was held in Simi Valley and the officers were acquitted.  On the evening of April 29, 1992 the city broke out in riots.

There were two riots that broke out in LA that day.  The riots that the media reported and the riots LA cops experienced. One based on a racial issues the other based on multi-racial people who saw an opportunity to get free stuff.  Again my opinion.

I was a Senior Lead Officer in Hollywood Division.  The Police Department mobilized, which means everyone works 12 hours shifts. I was assigned to A watch 6 A.M. to 6 P.M.

The watch started out slow, a few reports of looting in South Central L.A.  As we checked all the Hollywood business districts, we could hear that the looting was spreading north.  By noon the looting was sporadic in Hollywood.  As officers caught looters and took them to the police station, we had fewer resources to deal with newer looters on the street.

My partner and I caught two white guys throwing rocks at a business window.  So much for the race issue, they just wanted free stuff.  They ran but we caught them a few blocks away.  I was enroute to the station when I heard officers requesting help for widespread looting.  I figured these two guys would be plead out to misdemeanor attempt vandalism.  I released them and responded to the “help calls”.

(Published in special section May 12,1992) -- April 30, 1992-- The second day of the Riots on 3rd street I photographed this guy running past a burning Jon's market with a shopping cart full of diapers.  I affectionately call this image "A Huggies Run".
(Published in special section May 12,1992) — April 30, 1992– The second day of the Riots on 3rd street I photographed this guy running past a burning Jon’s market with a shopping cart full of diapers. I affectionately call this image “A Huggies Run”.

Up and down Western Avenue from Hollywood Boulevard to Beverly Boulevard were reports of looting.  Some businesses were set on fire.  A supervisor requested all available units to respond to Santa Monica and Western Avenue.  When we arrived, numerous businesses were on fire, there were thousands of people in the streets, mostly Hispanic.  A shoe store was being looted.  We formed up into a skirmish line.

Now I’ve had rocks and bottles thrown at me during demonstrations and at rock concerts at the Palladium. This group was throwing shoes from the shoe store on the corner.  I just dodged a ladies pump, the officer next to me got hit with a cowboy boot in the shoulder.  I’d never been shoed before.  We moved the crowd west until we reached St. Andrews.  Another few hundred people were gathered to the north.  We didn’t have enough officers to protect our flank if we continued west.  We had less than a dozen officers against thousands of people.  We stood our ground as rioters threw at us whatever was handy.  Most of these people were Hispanic, illegal immigrants, and I wonder if they knew who Rodney King was.

LA riots  photo courtesy of KoreAm Journal
LA riots
photo courtesy of KoreAm Journal

At one point I saw a guy in the back ground raise a handgun and fire off a shot in the air.  We were told that the Sears store a block away was being looted, our sergeant  says we don’t have enough officers. A few minutes later an unmarked police car drives up to me.  It was two policemen and the Deputy Chief and Commander from our Bureau.  The Commander, Bob, a great guy asked me is this all the officers you have, I reply “yea”.  They turned around and left.  About two months later, I was given a VHS tape taken by a news crew.  The tape shows the back door of Sears.  The two policemen and the Commander are chasing away the crowd.  The Deputy Chief is standing at the back door, he has a shot gun and is butt stroking looters as they flee Sears.  I’ll bet it was hard to carry a TV, run and be hit in the ass with a shot gun.  It was the only justice I saw that day.  Nothing politically correct, just old fashioned police work, taking care of business.

Another part of that tape shows a man standing outside a drug store on Hollywood Boulevard.  He had a handful of shopping bags and was stopping people walking by and giving them a bag, then directing them into the drug store to take whatever they wanted.

My next story will deal with some of humorous incidents that happened during the “RIOTS”.  It won’t be the stuff you see on the news or in the official L.A.P.D. documentary.

Hal