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Temper Courage With Caution : Correct Response Should Be to First Call the Police

August 21, 1994

Last year, we commented on the story of B.R. Chavez, a 77-year-old San Fernando Valley man who made a citizen's arrest of a graffiti vandal. It was a courageous response, but the circumstances were very important.

Chavez was on a crowded bus where a few folks might have come to his aid had things gone awry. Also, he waited until he saw a police car just ahead of the bus before he asked the driver to stop and announced that he was nabbing the two teen-agers who were busy defiling the bus' interior. The police were flagged and they took the boys into custody.

The more recent acts of James J. Alcala of Palmdale, and that of Alfredo Diego, Jesus Reynoso and other Los Angeles sanitation workers were no less heroic. But they do point out the dangers of taking direct action against criminals instead of trying to immediately notify authorities.

Alcala also put the collar on a graffiti tagger. The youth put up a fight and threatened to hurt Alcala. He also vowed to damage Alcala's prized 1958 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck. Alcala received a reward for his troubles, but he was lucky to escape the incident with ripped trousers. The youth could have been armed with a dangerous weapon, and he might have been inclined to use it.

Far more serious was the incident Wednesday in which Alfredo Diego noticed suspected gang members attacking a homeless couple. He immediately--and bravely--ran to their aid. Suddenly, there were 20 gang members going after Diego, some of them armed with knives and ice picks, and bricks and rocks. Jesus Reynoso and other sanitation workers then rushed in to help Diego.

Three of the sanitation workers were injured, one seriously when he was struck in the head by a brick. Reynoso was stabbed just above his left hip. The gang finally fled when the LAPD was called. That call to the LAPD should have been the first response, not one of the last.

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