In Compton, a man led sheriff’s deputies on a 35 mph chase just past midnight following Mother’s Day. The deputies, who were responding to reported use of gunfire, bumped into a man driving a white sport utility vehicle similar to the one reportedly involved in an earlier shooting.
This vehicle, however, was driven by Winston Hayes, a man who, according to witnesses, was not involved in the reported gunfire. Winston had instead spent his evening driving around the neighborhood blasting music. Hayes, who has had a few run-ins with the law, got out of the vehicle right before the first of 120 shots were fired at him.
In the end, Hayes was wounded and required medical attention, while a deputy also had to be treated for gunshot wounds.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department should be ashamed of itself.
But wait. We are overlooking the fact that Sheriff Lee Baca did call the event perhaps a little “excessive.” We are forgetting that this happened in Compton, which is, according to a few popular rap artists, home to notorious gang affiliates.
OK, now it’s justified.
Never mind the 10 deputies who unleashed 120 rounds onto an unarmed man in his vehicle during the end of a slow police chase through Compton. Let’s not get carried away about all those bullets that carved through the windows and walls near Butler Avenue.
“What the (expletive)?” is a justifiable response to this incident, isn’t it Mr. Baca?
Things like this shouldn’t be possible. Not when innocent lives are at stake. The fact that many residents had to actually take cover, to avoid being hit by 120 rounds of ammunition flying through the air, is absurd. What’s even more troubling is the fact that one officer was shot during the chaos … by a colleague.
That’s when you know something went wrong. How can these deputies reasonably shoot so many rounds at an unarmed man? Is it that the officers are just so poor at aiming that they simply hit him? Or was just mere “Pulp Fiction”-style bad luck?
Sure, the SUV did begin to roll away during the crossfire. But it’s clear that this vehicle has wheels, and a few well-placed shots — not a few dozen — at the tires would have stopped it. But, then again, I’ve never been to the sheriff training academy or whatever it’s called, so I don’t know what the procedure is in this case. From the looks of it, however, these officers probably missed the lecture on how to responsibly stop a vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Department messed up big time. The department owes a lot of answers to a lot of people in this community. First, the department should look for a way to walk without its tail between its legs and give a meaningful apology to the community.
Baca’s presence in the neighborhood a few days later is not enough. Neither was his public apology. The only way a true apology can be accepted by this community is with assurances that something like this won’t happen again.
This will only happen when procedures are amended in a way that will no longer allow for people to get hurt, especially in ways this careless. Not a civilian, not a suspect, and definitely not a sheriff. Because if the sheriffs can’t take care of themselves, how can we trust them in taking care of us?