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Only Bruce and Rodriguez sign letter
By Tammye McDuff
It has been two months since the shooting death of Johnny Anderson of Hawaiian Gardens and irate friends and family members gathered at the City Council meeting Tuesday evening to ask why it is taking so long for an investigation.
Carlos Mejia addressed Council wanting to know what steps were being taken to push the investigation, asking “do we the citizens of the this City really have a voice?”
Mayor Barry Bruce wrote a letter to the office of Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and asked that each Councilmember sign the letter requesting an investigation into the shooting by the FBI.
Bruce commented that if the entire Council signed the letter, it may have more weight to push the investigation through.
Councilman Michael Gomez, who was not in Tuesday’s meeting, sent a letter to City Clerk stating why he would not sign the Mayor’s letter.
Councilman Victor Farfan and Mayor Pro Tem Mariana Rios also declined to sign the letter, stating that they would each construct their own.
When questioned as to why, Farfan and Rios said they did not like the verbiage and stated it sounded as if the Mayor was criticizing the Sheriff’s Department.
Councilman Rey Rodriquez was in full support of the Mayor’s letter and agreed to sign it.
A press release sent by Bruce September 14th stated the request stems from a series of events that cast a suspicious eye on the Lakewood Sheriff’s Department.
It cited events that occurred after the shooting, including another deputy involved shooting in Lakewood that claimed the life of an unarmed man.
More recently, following a drive by shooting in Hawaiian Gardens, as the victim was being administered first aid by a concerned neighbor, police were unconcerned. No police officer offered assistance nor ever even spoke to the person administering first aid.
“Events like this makes one wonder if there is a sentiment in the Sheriff’s Department that says Hawaiian Gardens residents are less than human,” says Bruce.
Councilman Rey Rodriguez is sure of it. “It’s obvious, they don’t care about the people in this city”, he says.
Kathleen Anderson agrees, as she shared the story of her husband’s death with Bruce, she recalled how she was treated.
“They locked me in a car, turned up the heat, and had their radio turned up loudly. I was interrogated with foul words, accused of murder, and put in a cell. Early in the morning I was awakened and rudely told that my husband was dead. Then they gave me my bike and told me that I could leave.”
Anderson’s brother in law, Manuel Trevino addressed Council stating that each Sunday, when the family and protestors gathered at the Sheriff’s Station, officers would drive by and laugh at them. A friend of Anderson, known only as Christie, said that officers would block their vehicles and run their plates. Trevino noted that he was sure there were some good officers in the department but believes they are afraid to stand up and say what is right.
Bruce assured the residents and officers present that he was not criticizing law enforcement, but stated,” I have asked specific questions about this officer involved shooting and have been bald-faced lied to.”
Rodriquez confirmed that some officers behavior has been questionable, “I was at the fundraiser that the family held to help with funeral expenses, and I personally watched as officers drove by the event, laughing.”
Bruce said the investigation is under way and by law the Sheriff’s department and OIG have three months to complete it, then hand it over to the District Attorney’s office.
Bruce noted that he is not comfortable that the department will hold a fair investigation stating, “OIG has requested access to all documents and has been denied that access. OIG is in a dispute with Sheriff McDonald over the issue. If the city council will sign the letter it will have more merit.”
Representatives of Sanchez office were in the audience and confirmed that the City Manager and Sanchez had met to discuss the shooting. A formal written appeal must be received by Sanchez’ office to request an FBI investigation. The Congresswoman’s communications office stated that the FBI has the shooting on its radar, but is waiting for the DA to process their findings.
Sheriff’s Department Keith Swensson spoke at the meeting also, commenting that the department was waiting on the coroner’s report. Swensson also noted that all activity is videotaped at the station and the alleged incidents of officers laughing at the family and protestors will be looked into.
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