It would not be a completely true statement to say that bureaucratic sloth and sleazy politics at City Hall killed Patrick Caruthers – the church-going 19-year-old special needs high school graduate and LA Trade Tech student – in broad daylight in the most gang-infested and dangerous park in Los Angeles.
It would not be absolutely certain that Patrick would still be alive today if the surveillance camera system designed in January with funding approved in February had been installed in Jackie Tatum-Harvard Park in South LA in a timely matter, its final approval stalled for eight months until three days after he was dead.
It wouldn’t be totally fair to suggest that petty little men like Mitch Englander and Dennis Zine who do the bidding of the smiling face of power politics in LA, Council President Herb Wesson, actually pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Patrick shortly after he called his stepfather to report he was safe in the park.
No doubt some gang punk – part of the Six-Deuce Brims that has treated the park like private property for decades — shot Patrick in the back repeatedly at 3:15 in the afternoon a week ago Tuesday as he sat on a bench in the park that was his home away from home since he was six, the place where he volunteered to help others, where everyone knew him and cared about him.
Complete truth, absolute certainty and total fairness aside, Wesson is vengeful man who stole the heart of Bernard Parks’ constituency for himself in the redistricting process he corrupted and, in keeping with long-standing City Hall practice, punished Parks for opposing him and blocked his effort to serve his constituents effectively.
Complete truth, absolute certainty and total fairness aside, the evidence shows that Englander, the reserve cop, and Zine, the retired traffic cop – chair and member of the Public Safety Committee respectively – deliberately held up the camera contract for two critical months when it had already taken six months to get it through the LAPD, the City Administrative Office, the mayor’s office and into the Council system.
Englander was asked the day after Patrick’s murder by LA Times reporter Angel Jennings why the camera contract was stuck in his committee — why he refused to act on the contract in August and then canceled a mid-September meeting where he had promised to take action. Jennings reported:
“On Tuesday, a couple of hours before Caruthers died, Councilman Mitch Englander, chairman of the public safety committee, forwarded the initiative to the City Council for final approval, he said in a statement. An equipment issue that had been holding it up ‘seems to have been resolved,’ Englander said in an emailed statement.”
Englander’s statement was a lie.
There was absolutely no equipment problem; the design was completed by the contractor CelPlan Technologies in January, something the company has done hundreds of times.
The record further shows Englander did not waive consideration of the contract in his committee until two days after the murder, not “a couple of hours before Caruthers died.” That’s why it was put on the “special” agenda because the public did not have 72-hours notice required for regular agenda items.
And when the Council finally approved the contract last Friday, as an emergency measure, Zine tried to add to the cover up of what had happened by raising false and unfounded concerns about whether the company was charging different maintenance/warranty fees for different installations and whether it was delivering on its commitments.
The video of LAPD Commanding Officer for ITA, Maggie Goodrich, shows how indifferent to the truth Zine is, in this and in so many other cases, and how he bullied her as if she wasn’t doing her job properly when he is the one engaged in a cynical attempt to conceal why this contract was not speeded along.
The official city records show that Englander wasn’t telling the truth in other ways. (Harvard Park cameras contract)
The contract cleared Maggie Goodrich’s desk on May 11, was forwarded by Chief Charlie Beck to the Police Commission on May 16, and approved on June 5. Two days later, the letter of approval was sent to “Honorable mayor . . . attention Mandy Morales.”
Why it took from June 7 until July 31 for City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and his staff to complete an “analysis” that is nothing more than pasting what Maggie Goodrich wrote in a long paragraph into a new document and adding a sentence recommending approval.
The next day mayor Chief-of-Staff Gaye Williams signed paperwork sending it to the City Council and assigned on Aug. 7 to Englander’s committee. But it didn’t get on his agenda until Aug. 24 because the meeting two weeks earlier was canceled, according to city records.
It was a busy committee meeting on the 24th what with the reserve cop, the retired traffic cop and a third cop, former Sgt. Joe Buscaino, also a committee member, enjoying their power as “policy makers” so much they demanded that LAPD brass deliver reports:
- Relative to the false alarm program, including: number of alarm dispatches, number/percentage of false alarms, number of addresses with multiple false alarms, mechanism for informing false alarm bill recipients of availability of Alarm School, opportunity to appeal a false alarm fee, and criteria for granting an appeal.
- Relative to the status of the fingerprint analysis backlog, how the Department’s plan maximizes available resources, and how incoming cases will be prioritized for analysis.
- Relative to the impact of reduced staffing in the Department’s Latent Print Unit, the status of the current testing backlog, and how the implementation of the Department’s plan will be an effective resolution.
What with low-ranking officers turned Councilmen relishing the chance to harass the command staff, there just wasn’t time to deal with installing cameras that could have saved Patrick Caruthers life or provided evidence about who killed him.
So Englander continued the item to the mid-September meeting but he cancelled that – probably because everyone at City Hall was working so hard to give away the farm for Farmers Field to enrich billionaire Phil Anschutz and near billionaire Tim Leiweke without the city getting a dime, only promises.
What the official record shows is that Englander didn’t forward the contract “hours before” Patrick’s murder. On Sept. 27, two days later, the record says: “Public Safety Committee waived consideration of the item.”
Frantic to clean the record after the fact, Wesson put it on the agenda for the 28th, at the end of the day of the orchestrated celebration of closing the deal with whomever it is that will somehow own the company that was being granted a fortune in entitlements because of Leiweke’s ability to buy and manipulate City Hall.
That is when Parks found an opening to introduce the senseless murder of Patrick Caruthers near the start of the AEG festivities with its obscene glorification of the flag, the military, Watts Tower, the Dodgers, Roz Wyman, Peter O’Malley, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Rodney Peete and Time Warner Cable — the company that will deny broadcasts of Laker games for the next 20 years to anyone who can’t pay for the privilege to view them in English and Spanish simulcasts.
A chagrined Wesson couldn’t deny Parks an emergency motion near the start of the carefully scripted and staged meeting so he could provide a $50,000 reward for information about who killed Patrick. The detective investigating the case got to speak and so did Gail Sears, the devoted mother who raised her son with learning disabilities to be a good and decent and loving human being despite the violent environment the city tolerated around him.
Parks pointedly apologized to her for the long delay in installing the cameras and promised her, for what it was worth, that her son would be remembered with honor during the ceremony when the new skate plaza is opened.
After the Council Chamber had emptied and Leiweke and AEG had left with fabulously valuable entitlements in hand, Parks got to take up Item 31, the contract with CelPlan for the cameras.
He brought out South Bureau Chief Robert Green who told the story of years of police efforts to rid the Tatum-Harvard Park of the gang, to get the city to invest more than $8 million making it a quality park, of the frustration over how long it has taken to get the cameras.
He told how the Six-Deuce Brims terrorized residents, forced construction workers out of the park, coerced parks workers and gang intervention workers into participating in the their rap video showing how to humiliate women, intimidate men and turn cocaine into crack – how the minute the cops stopped patrolling the park, the hoodlums reclaimed their turf, which is why the cameras mattered so much.
Maggie Goodrich, LAPD’s chief of information technology, stood her ground under Zine’s assault, telling him in the nicest way possible that he was wrong and didn’t know what he was talking about — not that he cared what a woman had to say.
Used to taking advantage of women, Zine persisted, desperate like a man in quicksand. He prattled mindlessly, demanding “just a little bit more sales pitch on our side … understood from that, squeeze a little more out of them to give back for what we’re doing .. . that’s what I’m looking at,” lectured the man without the slightest qualification to be City Controller unless egotism and hot air are qualifications.
“Understood,” she said, but the look on her face tells you exactly what she thinks of him, what you should think of him, too.
This incident might be dismissed as a tragic mistake, a miscalculation made in the heat of political battle, if this were an isolated case.
But it isn’t. This is what goes on every day in every way in city government in Los Angeles.
No one in the world – certainly not the National Football League — except Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and your LA City Council would give the right to transform a vast area of downtown into a cold, soulless commercial horror show blazing in the night with digital billboards and not even know who they were doing business with as if it doesn’t matter whether you’re surrendering the parks to hoodlums or the future to the greedy.
No, they didn’t kill Patrick Caruthers. They just made his murder possible in small ways by not putting surveillance cameras in every park where the gangs operate and in big ways with a “Baghdad solution” that allows gangstas to operate with impunity as long as the violent crime statistics keep declining.
Patrick Caruthers should not be relegated to nothing more than a statistic.
His death should spur an all-out effort by the city to liberate the 10,000 residents of the Harvard Park area from their enslavement by the Six-Two Brims and to stop pacifying the violence and inhumanity of gangsters all over the city by allowing them to steal, deal drugs and terrorize so many.
That would be a fitting tribute for Patrick Caruthers, a sign that what goes on in the grit of the city matters as much as the glamour and glitter.