At least 100 protesters angry over the police killing of a Guatemalan day laborer faced off with police Tuesday night. Officers fired tear gas to disperse crowds in front of the LAPD's Rampart Division headquarters just west of downtown.
Fourteen people were behind bars at Rampart Station this morning, held on suspicion of inciting a riot and unlawful assembly during Tuesday night's clashes along West Sixth Street and up South Union Avenue, Los Angeles police Lt. Cory Palka said.
Earlier, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had appealed for calm, and Police Chief Charlie Beck promised a full and transparent investigation into the shooting. Beck said the man "lunged" at officers with a knife Sunday afternoon.
Near the corner of Sixth Street and Union in this bustling immigrant neighborhood, friends of Manuel Jamines have arranged a memorial with candles and photos. The memorial surrounds a newsstand that sits a few feet from where police shot and killed him. A cardboard collection box for the family is taped on top.
“He was a nice guy," Claudio Hernandez said.
Hernandez said he and Jamines were day laborers together, standing side by side at the nearby Home Depot almost every day waiting for work. He knew his friend had a wife and three children back in Guatemala. He also knew Jamines struggled with a drinking problem, but he said he didn't deserve to be shot.
"They treated him like an animal," Hernandez said.
Beck said Jamines first waved a knife at passersby, then at police when they arrived Sunday afternoon. He said officers asked him in English and Spanish to drop the knife. He said Jamines instead raised the weapon over his head and “advanced on officers,” prompting Officer Frank Hernandez to shoot Jamines “in immediate defense of life.”
“It’s a tragedy as the mayor stated, as these all are," Beck said. "We have absolute faith in the investigation and the process. And we will make that process transparent and we will answer all questions.”
Beck identified the three officers involved in Sunday's incident as Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the LAPD, and Steven Rodriquez and Paris Pineda – both 5-year veterans. Hernandez was the only one to shoot.
While many people in the neighborhood expressed anger at the shooting and wondered why police used lethal force, Maria Elena Garcia said she supported the officers.
"They are never rude to us. If you are minding your own business, they are there to make sure things are OK," she said in Spanish. Garcia, 50, said the police "must have been justified in their actions," and that Jamines "must have been doing something wrong."
Fernando Luis sided with Jamines only after his brush with police during one of the demonstrations. He was coming home from work and stumbled into one of the protests Monday night.
"I was taking out my wallet and he thought I was taking out something else. So he hit me with a baton. He hit me twice.”
Luis said a rubber bullet hit his sister, and said he doesn’t think he can trust police anymore.
The incident comes as police are still working to repair relationships with Latinos in the MacArthur Park area. Three years ago, officers clashed with peaceful immigrant rights marchers in the park.
As she surveyed the makeshift street memorial, Cecilia Martinez said she isn’t sure who is right in the Jamines shooting.
“But I feel that I need to be here. I know by being here it means a lot to the family, just to pay respects. And you can feel something going on in the atmosphere... sadness."
Claudio Hernandez, Jamines' fellow day laborer, wondered what would happen to his friend's wife and three children back in Guatemala. Like many others, he’d traveled to the United States to work and send money home.
"Who’s going to feed his kids? Who’s going to take care of his wife?”