Wanted for Killing 3, Christopher Dorner’s Claims of Racism, Corruption Resonate with LAPD’s Critics
AMY GOODMAN: The city of Los Angeles is offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer. Dorner is wanted in the three recent killings targeting fellow officers and their families. During a Sunday afternoon press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the bounty.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: Collectively, this group, led by my office, is posting a reward of $1 million for information that will lead to Mr. Dorner’s capture. We will not tolerate anyone undermining the security, the tranquility of our neighborhoods and our communities. We will not tolerate this reign of terror that has robbed us of the peace of mind that residents of Southern California deserve.
AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made the announcement after a massive manhunt failed to find the former police officer.
Christopher Dorner was fired from the police department in 2008 after he was accused of making false statements that his training officer had kicked a mentally ill suspect in the course of an arrest. Testimony by the suspect’s father supported Dorner’s claim.
In an online manifesto, Dorner claims he was unjustly fired. He also accused the department of racism, corruption and other abuses. In his message, he threatened to wage, quote, "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPDuniform." On Friday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced he’ll reopen an investigation into Dorner’s firing. LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said Chief Beck’s decision was about maintaining public trust in the police force.
COMMANDER ANDREW SMITH: He’s not opening it because of the accusations or because of the musings of someone who’s a—who’s a multiple murderer now. He’s doing it because he wants to ensure that the public knows that the Los Angeles Police Department is fair and transparent.
AMY GOODMAN: The manhunt for Dorner began last week after he allegedly shot dead Monica Quan, the daughter of the former police captain who represented Dorner during his disciplinary action, as well as her fiancé. Dorner is also accused of shooting several police officers, one of them fatally.
Police pursuing Dorner as part of a multi-agency hunt were involved in at least two separate shootings, injuring two people Thursday after they came across vehicles that looked similar to the suspect’s. Dorner’s own truck was found on fire and abandoned.
For more, we go to California, to Berkeley, where we’re joined by journalist Davey D. He runs the popular website "Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner" at DaveyD.com. He’s co-host of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in Berkeley. He’s also an adjunct professor at San Francisco State in the Afro Studies Department.
Davey D, welcome to Democracy Now! Start off by—what is most important, do you think, to understand about this case and Christopher Dorner at this point?
DAVEY D: I think what really has captured people’s imagination is, one, that he is—through his manifesto, is waging war against the L.A. Police Department. And I think for most people it might seem to be an open and shut case in terms of how people’s emotions would side. But what you found is, once you read the manifesto, it’s either opened up old wounds or it’s reaffirmed what people have long suspected or have experienced in terms of brutality. I think what stands out for me and many of the people that I deal with is the fact that there are these troubling allegations. And those things need to be further investigated, irregardless of what we feel about Dorner, whether or not he’s a psychopath or any of the words that they want to put on him. I’m really curious as to whether or not these allegations that he has raised, where he names dates, times and places and names, whether or not they actually check out. And I think that needs to be really investigated, above and beyond just the immediate scenario which led to his firing, which was the dispute between his sergeant, his supervising sergeant, Teresa Evans.
AMY GOODMAN: For people who aren’t following this case in the greater Los Angeles area, if you can explain exactly what you understand has happened, you know, what this manhunt is about and what this manifesto is.
DAVEY D: Well, you know, the main thing is, with the manifesto, he points out that he’s going to rage—he’s going to wage war on the police officers who’d done him dirty. And so, with that, you’ve seen an unprecedented amount of manpower, resources, an award, and language that says that all of our security is undermined. I mean, really, the security that’s undermined is the police department. And so, really what you’re seeing, at the end of the day, is higher value placed on the lives of the police, and you’re seeing them pull all the stops out to find this one individual.
Granted, with the murders of the two people, the captain’s daughter and her fiancé, how do we know that he did it? I’m not defending this. We know he said this in his manifesto, but what’s the evidence that they have that they are now pursuing is the question that I would ask.
Going above and beyond that, I’m still concerned in—I’m basically—people are concerned that his charges that LAPD is still corrupt and is still very violent, I think, resonates with a lot of folks, and that’s something that needs to be checked out. And we saw that come to the forefront when we saw the two women, Emma Hernandez and her daughter, who were shot in the back. One of them, you saw like 30 or 40 rounds shot in the—with their truck, that didn’t fit the description. We hear that they were given no warnings, no commands. And for many people, that’s like business as usual in L.A.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that happened.
DAVEY D: That goes back to a history where—huh? Beg your pardon?
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that happened, how Emma Hernandez—
DAVEY D: Well, they were delivering newspapers the night that the officer in Riverside County was shot. And so, there was this manhunt, and I guess two of the undercover cops that were assigned to protect officers that were under threat from Dorner, they approached this truck and shot them. They shot them from the back. You see the pictures. And what you got was an apology and a new truck that’s being offered. How about people being arrested for negligence, you know? How about, you know, the transparency in the procedure that they followed or didn’t follow in terms of how they went about shooting innocent people?
We also know that there was a man that was shot. He was driving a truck that was similar but not the same color. We don’t even know his name, and he was shot with another—by another department, the Torrance Police Department. So, for many people, when you hear that, that’s like, OK, shoot first, ask questions later. That goes back to a deep, sordid history in Los Angeles. And I’m saying that as somebody who’s lived in L.A. for a long time.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read an excerpt of Christopher Dorner’s manifesto. He wrote, quote, "I know I will be vilified by the LAPD and the media. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name." Dorner goes on, "The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions. He went on to say he would use, quote, "every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance and survival training I’ve been given" to bring "warfare’’ to the LAPD and its families.
Davey D, the police department itself is saying it’s reopening, you know, investigating why exactly he, Dorner, was fired, which is very interesting, given what has happened. And Dorner is challenging reporters, in this 11-page manifesto, to, you know, get information about particular cases that he believes he has documentation on that no one has paid attention to.
DAVEY D: Well, there’s a few things going on. I mean, first of all, anybody who would kill innocent folks, I don’t think is a hero, so let’s kind of get that off the table, because I think when the question is raised about, "Let’s look at what is going on here, what he’s raising, let’s investigate that," the immediate response is like: Are you supporting a killer of innocent people? Are you supporting a cop killer? No, he named dates, times and places. Let’s look these—let’s check these out, because those allegations are pretty serious.
The other thing that you have is that, initially, they were said—this manifesto was described by Chief Beck as something that was ramblings on the Internet. Well, it wasn’t ramblings when he decided to put 40 to 50 security squads to protect his officers. He took that seriously. Obviously we are going to reexamine the allegations that he raised around the—his firing, so they’re taking that very seriously. The fact that he kind of implicated himself as being the killer of Monica Quan and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, they’re taking that seriously. But then the allegations, they want to say those are ramblings. And I say, as journalists, we should take all that seriously, not just the incident with his sergeant, Teresa Evans, but also the allegations of recruits or officers singing Nazi songs to somebody—he talks about that—police officers who are on the beat to this day, he gives their names. They use the "N" word. Should there be a zero tolerance for that? Are they still officers on the beat? If so, why? We should check out to find out if people involved with the Rodney King scenario or the Rampart scandal have been expanded. If so, why?
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what Rampart is, for people who aren’t familiar.
DAVEY D: Rampart was the—Rampart was the biggest scandal that this country has ever seen with police departments, definitely in California. A lot of people were falsely accused, a lot of people were arrested, a lot of people did jail time, all this sort of stuff, before it was unpacked, maybe about 10 years ago, to find out that there was a lot of misdeeds. And public trust was severely compromised. So, when these allegations come up, you know, for people who have long mistrusted the LAPD, going all the way back to the ’50s, that kind of is a continuation of what is going on.
The other thing that I would add is that the allegations that he’s put here, where he’s naming off people’s names, people would say, "OK, why don’t you just check that out?" But the other thing that you’ve got to remember about, in California they have a policeman’s bill of rights. And that bill of rights is something that protects police, so you can’t get access to their records. You have no idea if they have a long history of violence, as he alleges in his manifesto with some of those officers. You don’t know if they’ve done wrongdoing. Maybe if you’re in a court of law and you’re suing or you’re the victim, you might have some access to it, but for the most part, there are laws on the book that have been re-enhanced, as recently as last year, that give the police absolute protection and privacy of their personnel records. And so we don’t know who’s out there, what they’re doing, what their records are, what their mindset is, all this sort of stuff. And so, I think just the fact that we have that, that needs to be something that people push back on. We should have total transparency when it comes to the police. And when allegations like this are raised, as journalists, instead of cheerleading, which you saw lot of media do in L.A., we should be checking it out. He named dates, times and places. We should check that out, find out if he was lying. If he wasn’t, then we should ask those hard questions as to how this sort of culture was allowed to continue.
And then, the last thing that I would just end with is not just L.A. A lot of times we think of just the L.A. Police Department, but it was just last week that we had seven deputies fired from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department because they had a rogue gang called the Jump Out Boys, where they were celebrating the shooting of black and Latinos. We have the situation in Anaheim, where you had seven people killed last year and protests that have gone on to this day. So you have a culture that—of police misconduct or police terrorism, as many people call it, that exists all throughout Southern California. And so, when incidents like this come up, you have a very divided community. And many people are saying, "What the heck is going on with the police department, all those police departments? And we want to get them checked out. And more importantly, we want to have trust restored. We want to have a zero tolerance policy, not something where they talk about, 'Well, things have improved over the last five to 10 years, they're not as bad as they were 20 years ago.’" How about zero tolerance? How about, you know, if you cross the line in terms of abuse, if you’re using anti-Semitic or racist type of epithets, that you’re off the force, period? Those are the types of things that I think people want and have long asked for and never got. They got slow change.
And what we’re seeing right now is maybe—what you see right now is the LAPDtrying to save face. So they’re going to do this investigation. They’re going to make sure that the whole world sees them try to find out whether of not this sergeant that he had a dispute with was lying or not lying. And that’s supposed to put everybody back to sleep. But most people aren’t going to go back to sleep. They’re going to demand answers, because he named off a whole bunch of other things in that manifesto that I think are very disturbing, and there’s a lot of other questions, including those shootings of the officers, who haven’t been arrested. Are they going to be punished? What’s happening with them? Why did they open fire? All those sorts of things should not be swept away.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean shooting by the officers of the innocent people, like the newspaper deliverers.
DAVEY D: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Davey D—
DAVEY D: Right, Emma—71-year-old Emma Hernandez and her daughter and the unnamed person that was—
AMY GOODMAN: I think his name is David Perdue.
DAVEY D: —that was shot by the Torrance police. Yes, thank you, David Perdue. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Who also happens to be a hundred pounds—looks like he’s about a hundred pounds less than Dorner and is white, not black.
DAVEY D: Well, you know, the other thing that they were doing down here in L.A. was they were actually—instead of asking the hard questions about why the police would shoot first and ask questions later, they were telling people, if you have pickup trucks, stay home, or if you look like Christopher Dorner, you know, maybe you might want to lay low, or, you know, everybody cooperate with the police. That—you know, I understand that when you have that sort of situation, tensions are high. It’s unprecedented. But that’s no excuse to roll up on the citizens in such a callous type of form. All of us have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not just the police. We all work hard. We all do our day-to-day tasks to try and bring about a better tomorrow. We shouldn’t have to fear from the people whose—our tax dollars go to protect and serve.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you’re saying, Davey D, we don’t even absolutely know if he is the shooter, though he has claimed he is in his manifesto, and it’s been a murderous rampage. But oddly, in the manifesto, he explicitly calls for tighter gun control, saying that his spree would not have been possible with a well-regulated assault weapons ban.
DAVEY D: I mean, you know, his opinions about gun control and whether or not Michelle Obama’s bangs look nice and what comedians and journalists he like, I think we can have those type of discussions and those debates. I mean, that’s his opinion. And, you know, he’s entitled to them, I guess.
What I think we should really be focused on are the names, dates, times and places that he names with respect to how LAPD is conducting itself. We were led to believe that when the consent decree was lifted after Chief Bratton took over, that there was marked improvement, that this was a new department. You’ve heard the mayor, you’ve heard the chief, Beck, say that it’s a new department. Well, if it is, let’s check it out. That’s what we should be focused on.
Do you have officers that are using racial epithets still working the streets? You know, we need to check that out. We know that on one of the local newscasts down in L.A., that the former training officer confirmed that that incident, where he talks about having the fight with the officers for using the "N" word, that that took place. Well, why are they still on the streets? What’s the zero tolerance policy around that?
We should definitely look into the conflict of interest regarding his sergeant, because he said that the people that were on his hearing, they had longstanding relationships, that the people worked for each other, that they were partners. If that’s true, we need to check that out.
And then, lastly, just for people around the country and people that are watching in California, we need to ask ourselves a question as to what is up with the policeman’s bill of rights, where all the police officers’ conduct, promotions, all these sorts of things are hidden from the public. You don’t have access to them. And even if you go to a trial, it’s very hard to get those things on the table. We found that out during the Oscar Grant case, where there was allegations of police misconduct for the person who was accused of shooting him. Those weren’t allowed in the court of law. That’s incredible. You do not have the right to privacy when we’re the ones paying people’s salaries. I think that needs to be challenged, and that needs to be pushed back. If we want to be transparent, if we want to open the doors for the public to retrust and have more confidence in LAPD, how about all the officers saying, "We waive our rights to the policeman’s bill of rights"? That would be transparency, not this other stuff that I think is just a slick PR move.
AMY GOODMAN: Davey D, I want to thank you for being with us, journalist and activist, runs the popular website "Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner" at DaveyD.com, and he’s co-host of Hard Rock Radio [sic] on Pacifica station KPFA—
DAVEY D: Hard Knock.
AMY GOODMAN: Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in Berkeley. He is also an adjunct professor at San Francisco State. Thanks so much, Davey D. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.