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Inquiry into killings possible

Inglewood may ask county sheriff's attorneys to look into three recent police shootings.

July 29, 2008|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters said at a news conference that she doesn't "trust any police department to investigate itself."  Waters added that Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks "fully supports an investigation."
Congresswoman Maxine Waters said at a news conference that she doesn't… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

The Inglewood City Council tonight will consider asking an independent investigator to review a spate of officer-involved shootings that has resulted in three deaths in the last three months.

The council will decide whether to engage the services of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Office of Independent Review to analyze the Police Department shootings, officials said. The announcement comes on the heels of state and federal officials calling for separate investigations.

"I expect to receive direction from the City Council . . . to address public concerns regarding our city's law enforcement policies and bolster public confidence in the men and women of the Inglewood Police Department," City Administrator Timothy E. Wanamaker said in a prepared statement.

City and county officials Monday discussed the possibility of an investigation but declined to comment on specifics.

"We are interested in continuing our dialogue with the city and potentially assisting with an independent review of the incidents," said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review. "We are going to look at policies, protocols and procedures regarding their investigative practices and the way the department responds to and learns from these events."

The Office of Independent Review was created by the county Board of Supervisors and consists of six attorneys with backgrounds in criminal and civil rights matters. The office is given wide latitude to investigate allegations of police misconduct and to come up with its own conclusions and recommendations.

At a news conference Monday at Inglewood City Hall, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) called for a federal investigation into the police shootings.

"I don't trust any police department to investigate itself," Waters said. "We must take all necessary steps to determine why there has been an unusual number of shootings [by police] in the city of Inglewood in such a short amount of time."

Waters circulated a letter she sent to U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey requesting a federal investigation into allegations of misconduct by police to "determine whether there is a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct or violations of federal civil rights or federal criminal law."

Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks did not attend the news conference, but Waters said that Seabrooks called her late Sunday and that the chief "fully supports an investigation."

The state's Legislative Black Caucus has called for California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to investigate last week's fatal police shooting of postal worker Kevin Wicks, 38.

Police say Wicks was shot July 21 after he raised a gun at Officer Brian Ragan, who was responding to a report of a family disturbance at Wicks' apartment complex. Ragan was one of two officers involved in the Mother's Day shooting of three unarmed men that resulted in the death of Michael Byoune, 19.

Seabrooks said Friday that Ragan had passed a psychological screening after the first shooting and that "there wasn't anything to affect his ability" to do his job when he returned to duty in June.

Byoune's family members have questioned why Ragan returned to patrol, and they have filed a $25-million wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, along with the families of the other two men who were shot in the May incident.

In addition to Wicks and Byoune, 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 an officer. Police said the officer believed Ortega was armed.

A few dozen people attended Monday's news conference, including the head of the Inglewood National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and Wicks' grandmother, Dorothy Nelson. Some in the crowd carried signs that read, "We Want Brian Ragan Fired" and "We Mourn the Death of Kevin Wicks."

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andrew.blankstein@ latimes.com

Times staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report.

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