He was a not a gang member, he told the officer. He would help the police.
Gizmo identified his attacker and was ordered to appear in court. In the hallway, he found himself facing his assailants' angry friends and relatives. He felt keenly aware of the difference between himself and the officers standing with him, he said. Police had the protection of their uniforms. He was just another black teenager.
His attacker was convicted. But Gizmo said he walked out feeling scared and alone. It dawned on him that cooperating with police involved far more danger than he realized. He had considered the police his friends. Now, members of his family said, he felt betrayed by police and endangered by a legal system that seemed indifferent to his safety.
Already he had been shot, and threats had always been part of life in his neighborhood. But after testifying, he said, "I felt I was targeted." Gang members would confront him and say, "We heard about you."
Gizmo became "like a different person," his grandmother said. He seemed withdrawn, gave up his dreams of college ball and was angry at the police.
Beecher had hired Gizmo as a youth football official the fall after the shooting, but lost touch when the season was over. He thought the youth had moved on, the way Explorers do when they graduate -- as Gizmo did -- from high school.What Beecher didn't know was that Gizmo was becoming involved with a different arm of the LAPD: The 77th Street Division's gang detail.
Gizmo had finally joined the local gang.
Terrified of Retaliation
Gizmo's grandfather has a thick mustache and favors crisp shirts. The grandmother is a small woman with large eyeglasses and long, glossy black hair, pulled back in barrettes.
The couple are from Arkansas. Both are in their late 70s and in poor health; Gizmo's grandmother uses a cane.
The family lives off the Harbor Freeway in a neighborhood of run-down houses and pretty ones side by side -- a pile of mattresses here, a hedge of canna lilies there.
The grandmother said Gizmo was terrified that the rival gang would kill him for testifying, so he began carrying a gun and sought protection from the neighborhood gang. Red followed his brother's path.
Red, always more difficult than Gizmo, was arrested in a car with gang members seven years older, guns and ski masks in the trunk. He was placed on felony probation.
Gizmo was arrested with a gun and also given probation.
"Would you rather get caught with a gun and get jail for a year, or get caught without a gun and get killed?" he said.
The brothers began to get stopped regularly by police. Probationers can be searched without cause, and three or four times a day Gizmo or Red would be outside or on the way to the store, and officers would demand that they lift their shirts to show whether they were hiding weapons. Or police would order their hands on their heads and pat them down. If the brothers stepped into the street, they got jaywalking tickets.
Each time they were stopped, the grandmother said, the brothers seemed angrier, more contemptuous of authority. She was beginning to feel that the stops were undermining her efforts to straighten them out. Gizmo would no longer listen to her. He refused to talk to Beecher, and he told his grandmother that he now hated police.
Police "embarrassed and humiliated them for no reason in front of the neighbors," she said. "I'm not defending the wrong things my kids did. I know they did wrong things.... But we needed help. And the police weren't helping."
Meanwhile, she said, officers never seemed to catch the neighborhood's violent predators.
Police said they were not stopping Gizmo and Red to harass them, but to prevent crime.
Such tactics may draw community anger, said LAPD Det. Will Beall, but the 50 homicides in the 77th Street Division so far this year "are not a figment of the racist imagination."
Asked if frequent searches were an effective deterrent, LAPD gang detail Officer Greg Martin of 77th Street said: "Sometimes ... maybe on an hourly basis."
There was another reason why police paid so much attention to Gizmo and Red.
They allege that the pair terrorized neighbors. Police said they could not persuade neighbors to stand up as witnesses against the brothers, so they used stops and searches to let the pair know they were being watched.
The tactics reflected an odd condition of high-crime neighborhoods: many unsolved crimes but few mysteries. Police and residents often have a good idea who the criminals are, but the offenders seem untouchable.
Residents are angry with police for not catching the shooters. Police are angry at residents for not identifying them. To some officers, it seems as if neighbors were colluding with gangs. "A mass Stockholm syndrome," one 77th Street detective said.
Police dismissed the grandmother's claim that they hastened Gizmo's fall. "It's an excuse," one detective said.
Lousy parenting is to blame, snapped another detective. "The police can't be in every hallway, every boy's room," another said.