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Two Cases of Hate Crimes Stir Concern in Lawndale : Vandalism: Police are investigating racial slurs found painted near the homes of two African American families.

August 18, 1994|JAMES BENNING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sheriff's deputies are investigating two hate crimes committed in Lawndale against African American families.

On Tuesday morning, the Marshall family found racial slurs spray-painted in black letters a foot tall across a fence and wall near their townhouse in the 4600 block of 153rd Place.

"I was disgusted and frightened," said Diann Marshall, 46, who lives with her husband, three children and five grandchildren in the townhouse. She took the children to relatives' homes for safety.

The Marshalls are one of several black families on the block, Marshall's son, Derald, 21, said.

"We really didn't know what was going on," Marshall said. "That's the first time something like that has happened."

A gang insignia was painted next to the slurs. The predominantly Latino gang linked to the moniker often fights with gangs from neighboring cities, said Sheriff's Detective Jacques Laberge. However, no one in the house is affiliated with a gang, Derald Marshall said. In a separate incident Aug. 9, the words Ku Klux Klan and another racial slur were painted in foot-high red letters on an apartment building on Rosecrans Avenue just west of Prairie Avenue.

It was discovered by Rene Wells, a resident of the apartment building. Because there were no fingerprints near the slurs, police have no leads in the case, Laberge said.

Sheriff's detectives do not believe the two incidents are related, and say racial slurs are uncommon in Lawndale.

"I don't remember too many incidents like this," Laberge said. "And I haven't seen a lot of White Power stuff going on."

But that was little comfort to the Marshall family. Marshall said her 23-year-old son, Gerald, discovered the slurs as he left for work Tuesday.

Concerned neighbors stayed up much of the night Tuesday to make sure the incident was not repeated. Many African Americans were troubled by the graffiti as they drove by the home earlier in the day, Marshall said.

"It was huge lettering," she said. "And the fact that it was directed at all blacks got everybody into it."

Marshall hypothesized that the graffiti could be related to a drive-by shooting that occurred recently a block from her home. Or, she said, perhaps the racial slurs stemmed from the videotaped beating of a Latino teen-ager by a black Compton police officer in July.

When her family moved to the townhouse two years ago, the fence on the side of her home was frequently the target of taggers, but the graffiti stopped after a year, she said.

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