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Probe set for LAPD response to party near USC

May 07, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein
  • During a protest at USC, a student holds up photographs of the LAPD response to a party Saturday night.
During a protest at USC, a student holds up photographs of the LAPD response… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

The first time the two Los Angeles Police Department officers walked to the backyard of an off-campus house party near USC, they had no problem with the crowd as they told the organizer to turn off the music and begin shutting down the party.

The officers walked across the street to another party in the area of West 23rdand Hoover streets, told them to shut it down, but returned to the first party when it seemed their instructions had been ignored.

But when they went into the house to question the organizer the second time, about 2 a.m. Saturday, they and two other officers who arrived were surrounded by an angry crowd that yelled at them and tried to keep them from taking the now handcuffed and detained organizer outside, according to the LAPD. The officers called for help, leading dozens of other officers, many in riot gear, to converge on the neighborhood.

Six people were arrested and one officer was injured. Two of the arrested partygoers were treated for minor abrasions, police said. The incident sparked a sit-in at USC to protest the LAPD response, and on Tuesday night, the Police Department, USC’s public safety department and student representatives will hold an open forum to discuss the issue.

The LAPD opened an investigation into partygoers’ complaints but defended the officers’ actions. 

Sources in the LAPD familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said the tactics that led up to the larger confrontation and what could have been done better will be among the issues investigated.

At the open forum, a talking point is expected to be whether student leaders can take a greater and more proactive role in trying to get parties that get too loud and go on for too long to shut down before police have to be called.

Attendees of both parties the LAPD officers tried to shut down took to social media, posting videos of the confrontation and personal accounts of what they perceived to be racial profiling by law enforcement. They said there was a stark contrast between how police responded to the two parties — one mostly attended by African Americans and Latinos, and the other mostly attended by a white crowd.

On Monday, more than 100 students gathered in protest on the steps of the Tommy Trojan statue. Many of the protesters were black, but they were joined by classmates of other races.

“They were acting like they were going to war with us,” said senior Jason Sneed, 23, a political science major who said he was handcuffed and put inside the back of a police car.

LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said officers only returned to the first party — the one attended mostly by African American and Latinos — because it had started back up again.

Authorities said partygoers started pelting officers with debris and more police were summoned to the scene. Security from USC’s department of public safety also arrived.

“It was a party that got out of control. People were throwing things at the police, so we donned protective gear,” Neiman said.

Department officials told The Times that in response to the complaints, they would fully examine the LAPD response, including interviews with partygoers, officers and other witnesses as well as a review of video taken of the incident.

Department officials said that dashboard digital video and audio from cameras in patrol cars would provide additional evidence to help them in their review.

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Twitter: @anblanx | andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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