By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Robert Tumas, the lieutenant at the scene, was himself made the subject of disciplinary action as a result of the beach-party fracas, but retired from the department before the allegations could be heard.
Addis Simpson is now suing the department as part of a class-action suit alleging discrimination in hiring and promotions, and charging that much departmental discipline is retaliatory. Simpson's attorney in that case, Brad Gage, contends that Simpson was fired because he once had a personal quarrel with a member of Chief Parks' family, and that Simpson's use-of-force record was exaggerated by his looming physical presence.
That position is similar to that of Simpson's supervisors at the 77th, who stood by him to the end. During Simpson's Board of Rights hearing, Assistant Watch Commander Dallas Gibson described Simpson as "consistently one of the most outstanding officers at 77th Division." Simpson himself acknowledged to the board that he'd had "a number of uses-of-force" but, as the board noted, no complaints of excessive force had been sustained.
Likewise, Gibson acknowledged that Simpson was "notorious" in the "gang community." But Gibson had an explanation: "If an incident happened, and 10 officers from CRASH -- they can't identify anybody else out there, they remember the big, black, bald man was there. 'He did this.' That's how he gets picked out of a lot of things."
CELES KING III HAS BEEN RUNNING THE King Bail Bonds agency on Martin Luther King Boulevard for the past 50 years. He's the state chairman of the Congress on Racial Equality, and a longtime friend of Police Chief Bernard Parks.
Sitting in his cluttered, comfortable, wood-paneled office, King speaks about the influence police officers like Addis Simpson and Dean Vinluan have on the life of his community. "It must be recognized that keeping a city like Los Angeles as a reasonable place to live is not an easy task," he says.
His round face wizened and owlish, his voice raspy, King chooses his words carefully. "They're doing a better job than they did in the past." He pauses, but he's just catching his breath. "I don't regard Rampart as a completely isolated situation."
Part of the problem is reputation and lingering memories, and part of it is just the nature of the relationship, but, King acknowledges, "There's a constant apprehension in most interactions they have with the police."
In the case of Carl Populus, that apprehension is a mixture of fear and indignation. C.P., as he's known to his friends, is agitated and effusive. He talks about the problems of raising children in Los Angeles, what with the lousy schools, the hard street culture and the goading invective of hip-hop. Stalking around his disheveled studio apartment, his slight frame animated by memories and indignation, he talks about the gangs, and he talks about the police. "The cops in 77th, if they don't like you, they just give you a case. I know about them. I known about them for a long time."
Populus' education began in May 1987, when he was busted for possession of a $20 rock. He got off with probation, but, in September of the same year, he was busted again. A rock in his sock. He was sent off to prison; once he got out, in early 1990, he had a new obsession. His wife. And his son, Rashad, then 11 years old. Carl wanted possession of both, or at least the boy.
When she ignored his entreaties he showed up at her apartment. He wanted his son back. He slugged her, then grabbed a kitchen knife. Then he threw it down and stalked out in disgust. In court a month later, Carl's wife took the stand. Her attorney queried, "Are you still having any pain?" Her answer was poignant: "Just my heart." Carl was guilty again -- four years, Folsom State Prison.
Carl was released in January 1994; now it was his son's turn. Rashad was tagging, hanging with the Five-Deuce Hoover Crips. He got the tattoos. He was practically illiterate. Carl Populus wanted to make up for lost time, coming through for a boy who had grown up without a dad.
He soon got his chance. In 1997, Rashad was arrested as a suspect in a rape. The victim described a Five-Deuce, with the same tattoos on his arms. Carl wouldn't believe it. He met with Public Defender Teri Teeling. He leaned on her: This was a case that mattered. She agreed.
The case was heard in juvenile court that March. Detective Virginia Rubalcava, just six months on the job, took the stand. Carl was in the gallery. The district attorney asked how Rashad had been identified: "Did you show the victim the Hoover Crip book?"
"Yes, I did. I assisted her in turning the pages," Rubalcava testified. "At one point, without prompting her, [the victim] immediately started crying and pointed to a picture." It was Rashad.
But Carl wouldn't let go. Neither would Teeling. For one thing, the victim said the rapist had the word "Angela" tattooed on his chest. Rashad had no tattoo on his chest. Besides, as Carl likes to say, "Rashad's a good kid."