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COLUMN ONE

The Raid That Still Haunts L.A.

In 1988, police smashed two apartment buildings in their zeal to crack down on drugs. The city paid nearly $4 million in damages, but the episode was only a precursor of worse to come.

March 14, 2001|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"In Dalton, you have 70 or more officers--mass destruction," he said. "You have a series of civil rights violations in the presence of police officers, done by police officers, sanctioned by command level officers.

"What happens? What did we do about it? In the D.A.'s office, what we did was file misdemeanors."

A couple of officers were fired. More than 25 were suspended without pay. The lawsuits against the city never went before a jury. The city paid more than 50 residents, property owners and those rounded up in the raid a record of nearly $4 million in damages in an out-of-court settlement.

Bitterness After Ending of Careers

The toll the raid would take on individual lives was not always evident immediately.

Elfmont, now retired and working as a security consultant, is still angry.

"It was a major, major screw-up," he said. "My career was over. It was obvious. Am I bitter? Yeah, I'm bitter. Absolutely. No doubt about it."

After the Dalton raid, Elfmont was transferred to a traffic division in the San Fernando Valley and later to Communications, where his career ended.

Rookie Parrick was pumped up with pride after the raid. As he drove home to Palmdale, he thought he and the others would get commendations. But when he told his wife what had happened, she thought differently.

"Something told me he was going to get fired," Julie Parrick said.

Parrick didn't get fired then. Head-butting a suspect and lying about the incident cost him his job three years later.

Parrick then began a long battle with depression as his family fell upon hard times. His wife, pregnant with their second child, asked doctors to induce labor so that his department health benefits would cover the delivery.

After a series of low-paying jobs, the family spiraled downward into debt and bankruptcy. They lost their house. He now sells recreational vehicles on a lot just outside Mesa.

"As you get older, you look back over your life and see the mistakes," he said.

Parrick, who, as an officer, drove to work with a loaded gun on his lap, said, "I believed I was doing the right thing by routinely stopping people on the street, hauling them into the police station to be fingerprinted and photographed. In hindsight, that is not what this country stands for. It wasn't right."

Sims, who took out the warrant for Dalton, later was included in a Christopher Commission list of problem officers. He left Los Angeles and joined the sheriff's department in Gwinnet County, Ga., where he has risen to division commander.

But the past found a way to track him down.

When he ran for sheriff in a nearby county last year, a local newspaper revealed his involvement in the Dalton raid. Not eager to dredge up the past, he withdrew from the race.

"People don't want to vote for someone like that," he said. The article, he added, "made me look like one of the officers who beat Rodney King. It made me look like a Rampart officer."

For the victims, the $4-million settlement appeared to promise prosperity. It delivered heartache and tragedy instead.

Once the money began to flow, longtime resident Liz Brooks said, "it was one big party for a while."

"They all ran out and bought cars, but then the money ran out and everything went back to the way it was," Brooks said. "It even got worse."

Sandra Garbutt, 23, was shot to death in a robbery shortly after receiving a portion of her settlement.

Gloria Flowers spent thousands of dollars on drugs. A wayward husband cost her the rest.

"It was a curse," she said. "The money was a curse. Now I just want to forget it ever happened and get on with my life."

For a while, it seemed that the four members of Raymond Carter's family had turned a corner. They pooled their money and purchased a six-bedroom house in Inglewood. But then came bad investments, and medical bills from his mother's losing battle with cancer. They lost the house.

Hildebrandt Flowers opened a carwash on Crenshaw Boulevard, and from time to time his customers included some of the officers from the raid. But the carwash failed, and he continued using drugs as he had before the raid. He began having more frequent run-ins with police.

He would also see the need for change. For a while, he worked as a gang counselor, but his addiction and troubles with the law cost him his job.

Last year, he was arrested for possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to serve time in a rehabilitation program. For the first time, he said, he has confronted his life. He has renounced the gang life and has attempted to erase his tattoos, which spelled out "Harlem Crips Rollin' 30s."

"I've wasted so much of my life. Now I want to do something better."

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