L.A. being pieced back together, 57 dead


LOS ANGELES, May 4, 1992 (UPI) - A man was gunned down after apparently trying to run down National Guard troops, breaking a tense truce between rioters and thousands of troops and law enforcement officers and adding another victim to the rolls of the dead in the devastating riots.

The riots, which began last Wednesday as violent outbursts over the acquittal of four white police officers charged in the videotaped beating of a black man, had taken 57 lives by Monday afternoon.


Many of the deaths reported Monday by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office had occurred Sunday or earlier, but hospitals overwhelmed by caring for the wounded were slower that usual in reporting the fatalities.

Officials said nearly 2,500 people have been injured and nearly 5,300 fires set since Wednesday.

Property damage alone was estimated at more than $700 million. Law enforcement efforts were projected to cost some $5 million a day and the loss in wages and tax revenues for hundreds of affected businesses was expected to add another $500 million to the price tag of the riots.


Despite the National Guard-related shooting, an isolated flare-up in what had been a calm weekend, Mayor Tom Bradley on Monday reaffirmed his decision to lift the citywide dusk-to-dawn curfew that had been in place since Thursday night.

Bradley and law enforcement officials have credited the curfew with the downturn since Friday in the number of looters rampaging through business districts and the thousands of maliciously set fires that have gutted businesses and homes.

In a news conference Monday morning, Bradley also said there were no immediate plans to call off any of the 9,000 military forces and federal law enforcement officers who have been deployed to secure the fire- ravaged neighborhoods and protect police and firefighters.

''There is no plan, no desire to withdraw them,'' the mayor said. ''Some will be reassigned based upon need.

''Those troops are here until we ask them to leave,'' he said.

Sunday's shooting incident was the first involving any of some 4,000 National Guard troops.

The driver, who was not carrying identification, was shot about 8 p. m. as he tried to run down two Guardsmen with his Nissan 280ZX, Col. Peter Gravitt said. The Guardsmen were unhurt.

The man had driven by the same barricaded South Los Angeles intersection earlier in the evening and told Guardsmen he would return.


About an hour later, the driver came back, drove past the barricade and made a U-turn.

''The Guardsmen shot about four times at his tires. Then they shot at the car and struck the driver in the head,'' Gravitt said. The driver died at a hospital about two hours later.

Mayor Bradley praised the efforts of thousands of volunteers, many of them from neighborhoods untouched by the wrath of looters and arsonists, who worked over the weekend clearing rubble from gutted storefronts.

''All races, creeds and colors working side by side on the cleanup of the city -- that's the spirit we want to see,'' Bradley said.

Meanwhile, city and county prosecutors and public defenders continued their marathon efforts in courtrooms around Los Angeles County to process some 11,824 people arrested on charges ranging from curfew violations to arson and felony assault. Some 1,900 were booked on felony charges.

Mike Botula, spokesman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, said looters would be charged with felony commercial burglary, a charge that could result in prison terms of up to three years.

The courts, which have been under a state of judicial emergency since late Thursday, had been given somewhat of a reprieve from the usual mandate to arraign defendants or release them within 96 hours of their arrest. But there still was intense pressure to handle the massive caseload as quickly as possible.


The city was moving hesitantly Monday back to business as shopkeepers unlocked their doors and workers returned to their jobs for the first time since they fled for their homes Thursday afternoon amid the worst of the rioting and looting.

Most public schools, largely untouched in the fury, were back in session Monday with beefed-up security and Southern California Rapid Transit District buses were venturing into the hardest-hit sections of South Los Angeles for the first time since the violence began last Wednesday.

Despite the slow, painful move back to normalcy, thousands of heavily armed police, National Guard, Army troops and Marines continued to patrol the streets, serving as an ominous reminder of the rioting, arson fires and rampant looting that shoved much of laid-back Los Angeles near the brink of anarchy.

As men and women in business attire walked to their offices, military troops in helmets and fatigues stood nearby, cradling rifles.

In South Los Angeles, although the rebuilding had barely begun, small hurdles were being overcome. Food, blankets and other emergency supplies collected over the weekend by churches and other groups were being distributed and electricity had been restored to all but about 500 customers.

At three Boys markets in South Los Angeles, some 30,000 people were lining up to collect care packages of food.


At one supermarket location, the line stretched for blocks with residents waiting to collect parcels of bread, eggs, fruit, baking mixes and as much fresh water as they could carry from seven trailers.

In a neighborhood that only days ago had seen free-for-all looting and destruction, a relatively happy, peaceful mood prevailed as entire families waited in line to receive the free food. Volunteers, in even toddlers, helped their parents lug gallon bottles of drinking water.

The passage of time had not only settled unbridled anger displayed earlier. It also appeared to make some looters penitent.

Los Angeles police said dozens had been returning merchandise, abandoning stolen furniture, clothes, electronics and sports equipment at police stations and other sites where authorities could find the items.

Capt. Francisco Pegueros said the department's Hollywood station, in one of the hardest hit areas, was receiving tips from callers about where to find the goods.

''I think deep down they realize it was wrong,'' Pegueros said of the looters.

Some of the merchandise turned up as police were searching apartments or houses for stolen property. While officers were inside, some looted items ''mysteriously appeared'' on walkways and even in elevators, he said.

In Washington, President Bush made available $600 million in emergency federal recovery funds and dispatched a high-level government team to assess the needs in the aftermath of last week's violence.


White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said budget director Richard Darman estimated that $300 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and another $300 million in Small Business Administration aid would be provided to California authorities.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton on Monday shifted the focus of his Democratic presidential campaign to strife-torn Los Angeles, walking the sidewalks of the once-thriving Koreatown business district laid to waste by looters and arsonists.

In a meeting with a coalition of neighborhood groups, Clinton said he was ''mystified and disappointed in the verdict and outraged by innocent people being burned out and looted.''

Clinton said he believed the trigger of the mayhem was the Rodney King verdict, but he said it reflected ''enormous frustration after years and years of neglect.''

Clinton said the riots in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities would redirect the focus of the presidential race to the ''real problems people face.''

''This was a wake-up call that elections are serious business,'' he said.

''We have to make something good of this tragedy.

''Look how many people died here when nobody was paying attention,'' Clinton added, referring to the chronic gang- and drug-related crime in the neighborhoods.

The death toll ranked the Los Angeles riots among the bloodiest civil disturbances in this century.


On July 2, 1917, 40 blacks and eight whites were killed in East St. Louis in fighting that broke out over the employment of blacks at a factory holding government contracts. In what became known as the East St. Louis Race Riots, whites turned on blacks, indiscriminately stabbing, clubbing and hanging them, and driving some 6,000 blacks from their homes.

The week's violence far surpassed the 1965 Watts riots, a six-day uprising in L.A.'s black ghettos that claimed 34 lives and injured more than 1,000, leaving $200 million in damage and left an indelible mark on race relations in America. Detroit's 1967 race riots left 43 dead.

Los Angeles police Chief Daryl Gates said he hoped federal troops and National Guardsmen could be sent home in a few days.

''I would hope we could go through the next three or four days with those troops here in the streets in a peaceful mode and then I think we could be reassured and then I think we could begin sending them home,'' Gates told the CBS program ''Face the Nation.''

Gates said Friday and Saturday nights were ''very peaceful'' because of the strict measures imposed.

''There was practically no one on the streets, very few cars ... It's been quiet. We have a large contingent of law enforcement and military on our streets and we will continue that until we are sure that peace has been restored.''


But the initial police reaction to the riots was criticized Sunday by Gov. Pete Wilson, who said ''mistakes were made.''

''I think it was a combination of a basic misassumption on the part of local law enforcement as to the magnitude of the response that would be required,'' Wilson said.

''I think there were mistakes made, logistical errors made, and that is something we have to prevent in future,'' Wilson said.

A poll released Sunday, meanwhile, found nearly four times as many black Americans as white Americans blame racism for the verdicts in the King assault case.

Nearly half of the blacks questioned in the Time magazine-Cable News Network poll, 45 percent, said racism was the reason for the jury's innocent verdicts, compared to only 12 percent of whites, who more often attributed the verdicts to poor prosecution, inadequate evidence, or loyalty to police.

The poll found similar divergences of opinion between the races in their perceptions of the verdicts' aftermath and how blacks and whites are treated by the criminal justice system.

A similar poll by Newsweek magazine, released Saturday, also found Americans splitting along racial lines in their views of whether justice was done.

But both polls found most Americans think the Los Angeles police officers should have been found guilty.


Los Angeles city officials estimated damage to buildings at about $550 million, and that did not count the enormous loss of merchandise to looters. An insurance industry estimate issued Sunday said the damage figure could approach $1 billion.

Peter Ueberroth, highly regarded as head of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and later as baseball commissioner, was named by Mayor Bradley late Saturday as point man in a public-private effort to rebuild South Los Angeles.

Ueberroth, often mentioned as a candidate for political office, recently headed a blue ribbon task force appointed by the governor to study ways to improve California's ailing economy.

Meanwhile, Reginald Denny, the man who was pulled from his big rig on live television and beaten, remained in serious but stable condition Sunday at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood, said hospital spokeswoman Tera Westman.

''He's in serious condition, but he has improved quite a bit,'' Westman said. ''He's definitely awake and alert.''

Denny, 36, of Covina, is having trouble speaking because surgeons performed emergency surgery on his throat to help him breathe, Westman said.

Denny is being treated for head wounds and facial fractures he suffered after being hit, kicked and punched by rioters.

''His doctors are very hopeful,'' Westman said. Denny was able to speak Monday for the first time since Wednesday. His doctors were amazed by his recovery, noting that the brain damage he suffered was not thought to be permanent.


''Most of you would not be able to tell he had significant brain injury,'' Dr. Madison Richardson, a throat specialist, told reporters.

Denny was expected to undergo cosmetic facial surgery next weekend and could be released from the hospital in two to three weeks.

Television talk-show host Arsenio Hall and Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday visited Denny and others among the 150 injured people being treated at Daniel Freeman.

''We still are the City of Angels -- it just takes a while to find the angels in all of us,'' Hall said.

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