Photos by Robert Yager
The LAPD has an organizational culture that emphasizes crime control over crime prevention and that isolates the police from the communities they serve . . . It is now time to develop programs to de-emphasize force and promote restraint, to foster within the LAPD a different attitude to the community it serves, and to assist the public to gain greater trust in the department. --Christopher Commission, July 1991
SCATTERBRAIN WAS DOING WHAT SCATTER ALWAYS does. Dropping in on a party, talking up a storm, grabbing a little something to eat. Back to the car, off to catch up with another scene.
But there would be no more parties that night for Scatterbrain. Turning north on 10th Avenue at 63rd Street, Scatter picked up a tail -- Officer Art Talamante and his partner from the CRASH Unit at the LAPD's 77th Street Division. Halfway up the block, Scatter pulled into his driveway and the officers stopped behind him.
The cops approached with guns drawn. Talamante did the talking while his partner searched the car. He told Scatter he was being stopped for running a stop sign; if no warrants turned up, he'd be cited and released. Leaving his partner in charge, he went to his in-car computer while Scatter waited.
At 22 years of age, Scatter had been through all this before. It had become sort of a rite of passage for him and his three older brothers -- all nicknamed Scatterbrain, the moniker adopted from an aunt's boyfriend, who'd been shot and killed when they were little. The boys grew up as creatures of the streets they roamed. Big Scatter, Little Scatter, Tiny Scatter and Baby Scatter all fell in with the Rolling 60s street gang, each in his own way, and they all had trouble with the law, getting to know the cops through the routine drug stop, the gang roust, the slow-rolling once-over.
Scatter believed that night, March 20, 1999, would be the same deal: "You know, take me down to the station, talk bad to me, how black people live or something, whatever he wanted to do." Instead, the encounter escalated.
Officer Talamante returned with a readout showing two outstanding traffic warrants. According to Talamante's arrest report and court testimony, Scatterbrain, whose real name is Shadron Kinte Holmes, then broke and ran.
Scatter tells a different story. He's taut and passionate, and speaks in bursts, sometimes sounding like a rap track. "Talamante wanted to get a attitude. For some reason he had a pissed-off attitude, like he didn't get no pussy that night or something, or somebody pissed him off, or he had a bad scuffle or something. He had a attitude the whole long time. Anyway, Talamante starts pushing on me. I can't do nothing. I'm handcuffed. First he socked me in the stomach, then he's pushing me to the back of the building where it was dark, no lights, be no witnesses or nothing. He push me to the back of the building and got to whupping my ass."
Of course, Scatter might have said something to set Talamante off. He had inherited a sharp tongue from his daddy, a preacher with a big congregation in Texas, who long ago lost interest in his L.A. progeny. And there's nothing like a little attitude to antagonize LAPD CRASH.
Several minutes passed before other officers, eight or 10 of them, arrived on the scene and got to the rear of the apartment court, where they found Scatterbrain screaming for help and bleeding from a nasty head wound, his shirt torn and his pants tangled around his knees. Seventy-seventh Division CRASH Sergeant John Radtke took control of the scene.
"The sergeant, all he did was say, 'Uh, put his pants on.' My pants was off, everything was off. That was from the beating. I mean, that was a ass-whupping. I don't mean 'Pa, pa, pa, you'll know better next time.' I mean, 'Beat, beat, beat, I'm taking this out on you.' That's the kind of beating I'm talking about."
Holmes was treated at a hospital for his injuries and charged with resisting arrest, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, possession of cocaine with intent to sell and running a stop sign. When the case reached a preliminary hearing, on May 13, Talamante testified that Holmes had not been handcuffed, but had fled and attempted to jump a fence. When he and his partner caught hold of Holmes, Talamante told the court, Holmes fought fiercely, kicking both officers in the head, and receiving his own head wound when he lost his grip and slammed to the ground. Holmes was charged with assault on a police officer.
Talamante testified further, almost as an afterthought, that aside from Holmes' failure to observe the stop sign, he'd been spotted moments before while making a drug transaction, and that after Holmes was arrested, officers found 13 grams of cocaine stashed in his shoes.