People pray during a prayer vigil following the ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department deputies in Compton, outside St. Francis Medical Center hospital in Lynwood, California, US, on September 13, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
People pray during a prayer vigil following the ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department deputies in Compton, outside St. Francis Medical Center hospital in Lynwood, California, US, on September 13, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

The ambush-style shooting of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies at the weekend as they sat in their patrol car at the LA Metro station in Compton was cruel and disgusting, as were the words some demonstrators reportedly shouted outside St Francis Medical Centre, where the two deputies were being treated.

Witnesses said some in the crowd outside the hospital shouted, “Death to police” and “Kill the police.” The sheriff’s department tweeted that some shouted, “We hope they die,” and blocked the hospital’s emergency entrances.

At this time there is no evidence connecting the attack to killings of black people around the country by police officers. But tensions over those killings, and the protests that have followed, make the mental juxtaposition of the events unavoidable.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters demanded justice for Dijon Kizzee, a black man who was riding a bicycle when sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop him for a vehicle code violation. They shot him dead, and the supposed violation still has not been explained.

It should go without saying that the shooting of the deputies and the cruel chants at the hospital do nothing to further the investigation of Kizzee’s killing. Or to explain the fatal shooting of Andres Guardado by deputies in June. Or to alter the law enforcement practices that led to the deaths.

Nor do they justify the deputies’ arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang, who was doing her job covering the scene at the hospital. Nor was anything useful added by President Donald Trump, who ghoulishly tweeted: “If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer.” 

The nation, in desperate need of cooler heads and an end to a season of death, must for the present make its way with neither. We have in our hands the power to destroy ourselves and one another, and we seem bent on exercising it.

The hunt for the deputies’ shooter must continue. If a suspect is caught and tried, the proceedings should be conducted with truth and fairness. Law enforcement practices must be scrutinised and, where needed, corrected. Racism must be acknowledged and combated. Our communities, our people, must get a chance to breathe. /Los Angeles, September 13, 2020

Los Angeles

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