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Probes of Inglewood shooting demanded

July 26, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz and Joanna Lin | Times Staff Writers

State and federal officials on Friday called for additional investigations of the Inglewood Police Department after this week's fatal officer-involved shooting, the third such incident in the last three months.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement that she planned to call for a federal probe at a news conference Monday at City Hall.

The state Legislative Black Caucus also called for California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to investigate the shooting of Kevin Wicks, 38, and asked that the public safety committee hold a joint hearing on officer-involved shootings and police misconduct.

"The calls for the Justice Department to intervene are not hollow," said caucus chairman and state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), who attended a boisterous City Council meeting this week in which residents and activists denounced the Police Department and Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks. "The Legislative Black Caucus is intensely concerned about this."

In a letter to the committee's co-chairs, Ridley-Thomas wrote: "Attention should be given to an examination of investigative standards and personnel practices employed by local law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of officer-involved shootings."

Inglewood City Councilman Daniel Tabor, in a telephone interview from Georgia, said that Seabrooks welcomed the Los Angeles County district attorney's office investigation of the Wicks shooting and has even talked of bringing in an independent investigator.

Earlier Friday, Seabrooks held a news conference at City Hall to update residents and reporters on the department's investigation into Wicks' death. Officer Brian Ragan was responding to a family disturbance call at an apartment complex early Monday when he fatally shot Wicks after he raised a gun at officers, police said.

Seabrooks said she was "sincerely regretful" of the shooting and explained the process through which Ragan was allowed to return to work only a month after his involvement in the May shooting of three unarmed men, which resulted in the death of Michael Byoune, 19. The victims' families have filed a $25-million wrongful-death lawsuit against the city.

Seabrooks said Ragan had cleared his psychological screening and that "there wasn't anything to affect his ability" to do his job when he was allowed back to work in June. But Wicks' family members and others questioned why Ragan was put back on patrol and not temporarily reassigned other duties.

"Why is the officer back on duty and once again finding himself in this circumstance?" Ridley-Thomas said. "Even if there was no controversy surrounding the first shooting, it would seem to me that a period of time ought to elapse before you have to go back into the line of duty."

In addition to the Wicks and Byoune shootings, Ruben Walton Ortega, a 23-year-old gang member, was shot and killed by an Inglewood police officer July 1 when he reached into his waistband as he ran from the officer. Police said the officer believed Ortega was armed.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

joanna.lin@latimes.com

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