February 11, 2016 

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou 

City News Service 


The plan, which could cost $1.87 billion over the next decade, also details ways the city and other officials can step in to prevent people who are at risk from becoming homeless.


The county, which has the primary responsibility for providing homeless services, could also step up its anti-homelessness efforts today, with the Board of Supervisors expected to adopt its own strategic plan that calls on cities to subsidize housing costs, create policy that encourages more affordable housing to be built and improve the way police and other public safety officers interact with the homeless.


For example, under the county homeless initiative, cities interested in helping with rent subsidies, under a program known as rapid re-housing, would pay $500 per month for each household receiving the assistance, while the county would match that cost.


For the city of Los Angeles, which has more than half of the estimated 44,000 homeless people in the county, the strategic plan lays out options for the use of about $100 million in city funds in the upcoming year, potentially reaching the $1.87 billion mark over the next 10 years.


City leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti and several City Council members, announced a plan last year to dedicate about $100 million in city general funds toward homelessness.


Councilman Jose Huizar, who co-chairs the council’s Homeless­ness and Poverty Committee, acknowledged that similar calls to action by past city leaders have come and gone without result, but “what’s different today and the direction that we are going is that we are turning from being reactive to proactive in setting the policy direction of the city.”


The city of Los Angeles has typically acted to help the homeless when there are court orders or lawsuits, and tends to turn to law enforcement to interact with the homeless, according to Huizar.


He said the plan will keep the city on track, even through changes in city leadership, by laying out goals for the city to reach.


“The benchmarks are in there for the public to hold us accountable,” he said.


Council members also noted that the plan is only the first step, and that it still needs to be backed with funding, either through the general fund or a possible ballot measure in November.


“If solving homelessness is a marathon, all we’ve done is fill out the registration form,” said Coun­cilman Mike Bonin.


Huizar’s co-chair on the committee, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, said earlier this week that the plan also represents “unprecedented level of focus and commitment of getting to zero homelessness.”


Huizar noted that with the plan adopted, “the real test” will be in how the city will come up with the $100 million, which may require that other city expenses be scaled back.


“The real critical piece is going to come when we discuss the budget for the next fiscal year and put some money behind the recommendations,” he said earlier this week.


Huizar said some of those budget discussions may include looking at how much the city will spend on enforcement of laws that directly affects people living on the streets, such as a much-debated law adopted last year that makes it easier for the city to remove items from streets and dismantle en­camp­ments.


Some advocates for the homeless who live in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles have criticized the plan as failing to address how the city enforces such laws.


Eric Ares, a community organizer with Los Angeles Community Action Network, said there are no guidelines for how police officers should interpret such laws in the 200-plus pages of the city strategic plan, which includes one page devoted to the role of the Los Angeles Police Department.


Ares said the issue of enforcement should not be a separate conversation from that of the strategic plan, adding that he feels city officials were “very, very intentional about trying to talk about them (homelessness and enforcement) separately,” Ares said.


A controversial law, known as 56.11, that would make it easier for city officials to throw away items, such as homeless encampments, that are left on sidewalks will not be part of today’s vote, and will likely be considered by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee later this month or in early March.


Ares said a detailed plan for enforcement should be added to strategic plan, noting that negative encounters with police officers, who often accompany service providers, deters many who are homeless from taking advantage of services.


Criminal records or citation records may also make it more difficult for the homeless to qualify for certain services, Ares said.


The county’s draft plan, which is expected to be approved today, includes 47 recommendations covering six goals, which are to prevent homelessness, subsidize housing costs, increase income, provide case management and services, create a coordinated system for homeless services and increase affordable housing.

Category: News

February 11, 2016 

City News Service 


A search continued this week for two men involved in the shooting death of a year-old girl in Compton during a suspected gang attack.


Witnesses told sheriff's investigators the attack was carried out by two males in a dark sedan, with one of the suspects opening fire into the garage of a home, said Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.


Detectives were trying to determine what prompted the shooting and whether it was related to a gang dispute, said Cmdr. Rod Kusch, who heads the sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau.


The girl, identified by the coroner's office as Autumn Johnson, was not the target of the attackers, Kusch said.


One round hit the child in the head while she was in her crib inside a converted garage, according to the sheriff’s department.


A witness who declined to give her full name told the Los Angeles Times she heard several gunshots followed by a woman screaming: “They shot my baby. They shot my baby.” The witness said she called 911 before walking outside, where she saw the baby’s sobbing father emerge from the garage with his daughter in his arms.


“Someone take my baby to the hospital,” the father said.


Since fire department paramedics had not arrived, the responding sheriff’s deputies rushed the infant to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Schrader said. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.


Deputies were dispatched at 6:58 p.m. Tuesday to the area of East San Marcus Street and North Holly Avenue on a report of several shots fired, said Sgt. Ulysses Cruz of the sheriff's Compton Station.


The site of Tuesday’s shooting, about a block from Roosevelt Elementary School, is one of the more violent neighborhoods in L.A. County, according to crime data compiled by The Times. In the last six months, Compton has had 475 violent crimes, including eight homicides, according to The Times’ database.


In a statement, Compton Mayor Aja Brown called the shooting “a tragedy that no parent should ever have to face.”


“My heart goes out to the family of 1-year-old Autumn Johnson killed yesterday evening as she lay in her crib in her own home. There is no justification for this horrendous tragedy. There is no excuse that anyone can give for taking the life of a precious baby girl who had not even begun to realize her full potential in life,” Brown said.


“While nothing can bring Autumn back to her parents, let her death not be in vain. I stand today with Compton residents in recommitting ourselves to the fight against gang violence. Help Autumn’s family achieve justice by contacting local law enforcement officials if you know anything about this crime and the suspects sought,” Brown said.


Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, (323) 890-5500; or Crime Stoppers, (800) 222-TIPS.

Category: News

February 04, 2016 


Associated Press 


Los Angeles police officers were justified when they fatally shot a homeless black man on Skid Row six times, including twice in the chest, a civilian oversight panel said Tuesday.


The Los Angeles Police Commission issued the finding in the shooting of Charly "Africa" Keunang after discussing it in a closed-door meeting. The commission found that one of the officer's tactics violated policy, but it did not explain how.


The decision led to outcries from about a dozen activists in the room who have criticized the shooting and repeatedly called on police to release body-camera footage that captured it. Afterward, the group held hands and prayed outside police headquarters.


"We're extremely, extremely disappointed," activist Hamid Kahn said. "We're not surprised because the police commission is such a rubber-stamp body. But there's always this one flicker of hope that their own humanity will kick in and they will look at these things not to protect the police officers, but really to protect the community and speak the truth."


Commission President Matthew Johnson said Keunang's death "is nothing short of tragic" and that Tuesday's decision came after an intense 11-month investigation and analysis that was deliberate and compassionate.


He said state law barred him from explaining why the commission reached the decision.


Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed confidence in the commission in a statement and said his office is working with LAPD to "make deadly encounters between police and citizens less frequent."


The March 1 death of the 43-year-old Keunang was captured on video by a bystander and has been viewed millions of times online. The killing prompted protests and drew comparisons with the death of black men in other officer-involved shootings across the U.S.


Police Chief Charlie Beck has said the shooting was justified because Keunang grabbed for a rookie police officer's gun after ignoring commands and becoming combative. He said the officer's gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with one round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon.


An autopsy showed Keunang had methamphetamines and marijuana in his system when he died.


Keunang's family has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city and police department, calling the shooting "a classic case of abuse of power and deadly force."


Joshua Piovia-Scott, the attorney representing Keunang's family in the lawsuit, said he was frustrated by the commission's finding.


"This is a cop-created killing," said. "It's hard to believe that six heavily armed and trained officers and one unarmed, lone homeless man on a sunny street on a sunny day results in those officers holding the man down to the concrete and shooting him in the chest and killing him."


He said the police commission's finding will have no effect on the lawsuit and that he's "confident that a jury in Los Angeles is going to be outraged by this."


Also Tuesday, the commission found that an officer violated policy in the fatal shooting of a man who led police on a pursuit that ended when his car collided with a police vehicle. An officer opened fire, killing the man. That shooting came four days after the shooting of Keunang.


Keunang's death is among several involving the LAPD that have gained national attention in the last couple of years.


Last month, Chief Beck recommended that prosecutors file criminal charges against an officer who fatally shot an unarmed homeless man in the back in Venice on May 5. It's the first time Beck recommended charges against an officer who fatally shot someone while on duty. More than 100 such shootings have occurred since Beck became chief in late 2009.


Beck has defended the officers involved in another high-profile fatal shooting, that of 25-year-old Ezell Ford. Ford was killed in August 2014 after police say he knocked an officer to the ground and tried to grab his gun.


The police commission found that Officer Sharlton Wampler was unjustified in shooting Ford and that Officer Antonio Villegas was wrong to draw his weapon but acted appropriately in firing it because he believed Wampler's life was in danger.

Category: News

February 04, 2016 


Associated Press 


Georgia executed a 72-year-old man, its oldest death row inmate, early Wednesday for the killing of a convenience store manager during a robbery decades ago.


The state Department of Corrections says Brandon Astor Jones was pronounced dead at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday after a lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted in the shooting death of suburban Atlanta store manager Roger Tackett.


The punishment was delayed for several hours while the U.S. Supreme Court considered late appeals from Jones' attorneys. They asked the justices to block the execution for either of two reasons: because Jones was challenging Georgia's lethal injection secrecy law or because he said his death sentence was disproportionate to his crime.


Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, the court denied the requests for a stay.


According to evidence at his trial, Jones and another man, Van Roosevelt Solomon, were arrested at a Cobb County store by a policeman who had driven a stranded motorist there to use a pay phone about 1:45 a.m. on June 17, 1979. The officer knew the store usually closed at midnight and was suspicious when he saw a car out front with the driver's door open and lights still on in the store.


The officer saw Jones inside the store, prosecutors have said. He entered and drew his weapon after hearing four shots. He found Jones and Solomon just inside a storeroom door and took them into custody. Tackett's body was found inside the storeroom.


Tests showed each man had recently fired a gun or handled a recently fired gun. The cash drawer had been removed and was found wrapped in a plastic bag.


Jones was convicted in October 1979 and sentenced to death. A federal judge in 1989 ordered a new sentencing hearing because jurors had improperly been allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room. He was resentenced to death in 1997.


Solomon, who was also convicted and sentenced to death, was executed in Georgia's electric chair in February 1985.


The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence, on Monday declined to grant Jones clemency.

Category: News

Page 380 of 1608