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Inglewood shootings by officers protested

September 10, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz | Times Staff Writer

Inglewood residents turned out to protest at a City Council meeting Tuesday night about four fatal officer-involved shootings that have occurred since May.

"To me it's a big issue when there's police shootings going on," Rodrigo Vazquez, 24, told the council as demonstrators passed out fliers that read "Stop killer cops."

The council, which discussed the shootings in closed session, convened a day after the vice-chairman of the Inglewood Citizen Police Oversight Commission, who has been one of the department's harshest critics, announced that he was taking a leave of absence from the watchdog panel.

"It is time for those who say they support this commission to do more than be silent," Donald Nicholson wrote in an e-mail to The Times.

"It is now time for others to speak up and support the ideals of openness, honesty and transparency," Nicholson wrote. "As long as I am in the forefront, others will be comfortable with letting me do the talking. Everyone must participate."

Nicholson's leave comes after Inglewood police shot and killed Eddie Felix Franco, a homeless man who had a toy gun in his waistband, on Aug. 31. Seven officers fired at least 47 rounds at Franco after he appeared to reach for the gun, police said.

"There's something gravely amiss," Nicholson said after the shooting. Franco was the fourth victim of an officer- involved shooting since May. Three of those killed were unarmed.

In the Franco shooting, a source close to the investigation told The Times that officials were looking at the possibility that it was a case of "contagious fire" -- a phenomenon in which an officer opens fire after he hears other officers firing and misinterprets the shots as being an attack.

Adrianne Sears, chair of the oversight commission, said she hoped to persuade Nicholson to remain on the panel because his calls for reform and change are needed.

"His passion for truth and justice is what our city needs during this critical time," Sears said. "Our hope . . . is that he will return quickly."

Earlier Tuesday, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, held a news conference to announce that he had given the Police Department and Mayor Roosevelt Dorn a "blueprint for reducing the use of deadly force."

Hutchinson's blueprint has eight main recommendations, including a quarterly review of the department's standards on the use of deadly force.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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