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Salvador Montenegro, 82; L.A. Police Commissioner Quit in Dispute Over Shooting Probe

April 11, 2006|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Salvador Montenegro, a former Los Angeles police commissioner who resigned in the aftermath of the controversial Eulia Love shooting and later accused the board of not being sympathetic to "the cop on the street," died April 4 at his home in South San Gabriel. He was 82.

The cause of death was complications related to Parkinson's disease, which Montenegro had been diagnosed with more than 15 years ago, said his wife, Raquel.

Montenegro was a real estate agent and appraiser in 1973 when then-Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the Police Commission, a move designed to improve relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Latino community.

During Montenegro's seven-year tenure on the commission, the LAPD and city officials wrestled with the 1979 shooting of Love, a 39-year-old resident of Watts whom officers shot to death after they said she threatened them with a kitchen knife. The shooting deepened a rift between the African American community and the Police Department.

Montenegro resigned in 1980, citing numerous reasons, including the limited role he was allowed to play in the commission's report on the shooting, which was critical of the officers involved. Montenegro said he was uncomfortable with that viewpoint. He also criticized his colleagues for being "so remote from the actual activities of policemen."

"They do not know what real life is out in the field because they've never gone out there with the officers," he said.

Montenegro said he left the commission after he was rebuked by Bradley's staff for his contrarian comments on controversial police issues. He also said his "concern for the cop on the street" had caused him to be ignored by his commission colleagues.

His departure was lamented by former Police Chief Daryl Gates, who said Montenegro had an "open mind" and had "done so much to alleviate festering problems in the Latino community."

But Montenegro's views of the Love shooting and of his colleagues on the board were not universally shared. A 1980 editorial in The Times said Montenegro "went too far in his broadside.

"To say that the other commissioners never attempted to understand the difficulties confronted by the police was a gratuitous slur."

In 1983, then-President Reagan named Montenegro director of the Selective Service System in California, a post that involved overseeing the state's 187 draft boards and working to ensure that young men of draft age register.

Born in Anaheim on June 16, 1923, Montenegro was the sixth of eight children born to Beatrice and Juan Montenegro, a migratory worker who picked crops in the California farming communities of Delano and Watsonville, and lived in Mexico.

Montenegro enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II.

Along with his work in real estate and on the Police Commission, he was active in the Latino Peace Officers Assn., civic organizations including Rotary International and the Council of Mexican American Affairs, and the American GI Forum.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two brothers, David and Jose; a brother-in-law, Elias Hernandez; and four sisters-in-law, Alla Hernandez, Consuelo Montenegro, Mildred Montenegro and Zita Montenegro.

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