View from the Tower

View From the Tower: Rodney King Days

By John Schick, Retired California Department of Corrections

In the early nineties, I was working on the Complex Transportation Team. We were responsible for moving inmates from one facility to another inside our prison. We also transported to other local facilities such as county jails (LA, Orange, Feds, etc.), and sometimes upstate if the state bus crews had wheelchair bound inmates their buses

Jim Clinton suit 1980's
Jim Clinton suit from Jim Clinton Men’s Store 1980’s vintage — courtesy

couldn’t accommodate. More importantly for this story, we did transports to federal court downtown for inmates who had pending civil rights lawsuits. We’d slip them into the Jim Clinton suit their attorney provided in an attempt to make them look “civil”, and drive them to court. It was a pain, overall.


One escort in particular was different. We had a black inmate who had filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against Long Beach PD. The year was 1993. No big deal, except the Rodney King jury was in deliberation. No one on our team wanted to go downtown, if you get my drift. Although we were armed, it just wasn’t a desirable place to be. We went anyway.

So, we get to court, and the place was going crazy! Federal, local, and county cops were everywhere! Helicopters were buzzing overhead. I recall seeing TV reporter Henry Alfaro standing there with his minions surrounding him.


We had a time getting a free elevator. FINALLY, we snag one, and as we were going up we came to a stop. Damn! The door swings open and there stands LAPD Officer Lawrence Powell with two other guys. Here we are in street clothes with a black inmate in full restraints between us. I thought to myself, “Ah C’mon!” Powell who was a big guy looked in and said, “I think I have the wrong elevator!” That was damn right!


We got to our court’s floor, and as we were walking down the hall, we see the what to me looked like the entire Long Beach Swat Team lined up on both sides of the hall. Obviously, an intimidation move. The looks we got were as if to say, “You’re involved in this, too!”



US Court House Los Angeles

So, we settle in court for what seems like hours. The tension was awful. We just wanted to get the hell out of there before the riot we all expected broke out. Five o’clock rolled around, and we hauled butt outta LA.


Not long the chaos started, and our court escort details came to a halt for safety issues. Our SERT teams had to go into LA to extract Parole Office personnel, and sometimes parolees out of the area.

What a time!


Read Thonie Hevron’s books: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought are all available through Amazon. Thonie will be at Copperfield’s Books August 26th, Saturday from 1:30-3:30. Also, she will be at Copperfield’s Santa Rosa Store October 1, 2017, Sunday from 1:30-3:30.


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