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
Inside Hollenbeck station, a female desk officer informs Frances that, yes, Luis is in custody. “Has he been charged with anything?” she asks. The officer doesn’t know, but writes down a telephone number to call for information. Back in the car, Frances dials the number multiple times on her cell phone, but it’s constantly busy. Next, she pages Luis’ parole officer, thinking he might know something. “Luis’ old P.O. was a jerk,” she says. “But his new parole officer is okay. He does his job, but when he sees Luis is doing good, he gives him credit for it.”
Frances eventually gets through to inmate information, where an operator tells her that Luis is being held downtown at Parker Center, but that he hasn’t been charged with anything. Relieved, Frances heads back to pick up the kids. “We’ll be okay,” she says, shooing her four boys into her white van. “Estephanie will help me clean up.”
Estephanie nods assent, but as they drive away, both mother and daughter look anything but certain.
Saturday morning is devoted to putting the house back in order. In doing so, Frances discovers something else taken in the raid. Over the past two years, she’s filed a string of harassment complaints against one particular officer, of which she’s conscientiously kept copies. “They were in this drawer,” she says. “The police took ’em all.”
At midday, Frances goes alone to Parker Center to see Luis. At the “glass house” — as Parker Center is known in street slang — they can talk only via remote TV monitors. When Luis first sees her face on the screen, he chokes up. “You gotta stay strong, babe,” Frances tells him. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this . . .”
Outside the jail, Frances is less optimistic. “If they charge him with something, even if he didn’t do it, even if he’s proven innocent, he’ll be in jail waiting for trial for at least three months. That means he’ll lose his job. I’ll have the baby without him. And if he’s in for too long, I’ll lose the house.”
Following the jail visit, Frances takes the kids out to the store to buy diapers and to cash Estephanie’s afterschool job check. When she returns home, she is bewildered to find the house has again been ransacked. The time, it’s not cops, it’s a thief. Someone has come through the unsecured back door and stolen the stereo, the VCR, the DVD player, the kids’ Playstation. Frances cannot believe it. “Why us?” she says, not really expecting an answer.
Throughout the weekend, details of Luis’ arrest spill out in pieces. He was driving home from work on Friday. A police cruiser pulled up behind him and flashed its lights. He saw the cruiser, but didn’t pull over right away. Instead, he drove slowly for two blocks, the cruiser behind him, until he reached César Chávez Boulevard. “I wanted to make sure there were witnesses,” he explains. “On that first little street, there was nobody around, and I was afraid they might plant something on me. So I pulled over on César Chávez, where a lot of people could see me.” Luis was particularly edgy because one of the arresting officers was the cop against whom Frances had filed the complaints. “He always says bad stuff to me like, ‘You’re not going to be out here to see that baby born,’ or ‘Next time I catch you, I’ll make sure you go down for something.’”
Back at Hollenbeck, Luis was booked by an officer who he says was courteous, even good-humored. According to Luis, the officer told him the house had been searched but that the police had found nothing of consequence, except maybe the bullets in the back yard.
On Sunday night, Frances’ two youngest boys are fighting, and she mourns the loss of the VCR and cartoon videos that might have distracted them. Finally, just after 8 p.m., she asks a friend to watch the house, packs up the kids and drives them to Wal-Mart, where she finds a special deal on a combination DVD-video player, on sale for $89. With Luis locked up, Frances is scared to death about money. But tonight she decides, fuck it, and buys the thing anyway — plus two new DVD animated movies for the kids. “I’ll figure the money out somehow,” she says.
On Monday, Estephanie refuses to go to school. “I don’t want to leave you alone,” she tells her mother. Hearing this, Bola and Julian say they want to stay home too. With no energy to argue, Frances agrees, but thinks the two littlest boys — Frankie and Elijah — are better off at day care. “They don’t know that Luis is in jail,” says Frances. “Frankie keeps asking for Daddy, and I just tell him he’s away working.”
By midmorning, Luis’ parole officer, R.P Cardoos, has finally gotten Frances’ message and expresses surprise at Luis’ arrest. “Look,” he says, “the guy works 12, 14 hours a day. When does he have time to sell drugs?” Cardoos says he gives Luis pop drug tests and thinks it unlikely that he’s using. “If they don’t charge him, I’ll release the parole hold right away and get him out of there,” he says. “This guy’s been doing good.” With that in mind, Cardoos checks the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Web site and finds no charge posted.