It's not news that a subset of almost every police and sheriff's department in the country is not just racist, but more than that, addicted to violence against the marginalized, the "safely murderable," whichever group of citizens in their jurisdiction happens to fit that description. They murder the "safely murderable."
Yes, black citizens are killed at a greater rate proportionately than any other racial demographic. According to noted scholar Adolph Reed, Jr., "the evidence of gross racial disparity is clear: among victims of homicide by police blacks are represented at twice their rate of the population; whites are killed at somewhat less than theirs," while Hispanics are killed "at a rate roughly equivalent to their incidence in the general population."
Yet this statistic belies larger realities. For example, according to Dr. Reed, "ninety-five percent of police killings occurred in neighborhoods with median family income of less than $100,00." In addition, "the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska ... South Dakota ... Arizona ... Wyoming ... and Colorado".
All of this leads writer Benjamin Mateus to conclude (emphasis added):
Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates. What unites these victims of police violence is not their race, but their class status (as well as, of course, their gender)
In major cities, cops kill black men; the Southwest, they kill Hispanic men; in the rural Midwest and West, they kill poor white men. The poor, the male, the least-cared-about in a given geographic setting — these are the most easily killed, the "safely murderable" — and these are the victims of most police violence in the U.S.
Andres Guardado, Shot in the Back Five Times by LA Sheriff's Deputy
Consider the case of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, a citizen of Compton, a city south of Los Angeles and policed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD). The Hispanic population of Compton is 65%.
According to local news reports, "Guardado was shot in the back five times by Deputy Miguel Vega on June 18 after authorities say they spotted him with a gun and he ran away. ... Family and others who knew Guardado said the teen was working as a security guard for a nearby auto body shop at the time but the LASD said he was not licensed to work as a security guard, was not wearing an identifiable uniform, and was carrying an unregistered weapon."
As another local report puts it: "Officers allegedly saw him with a gun; Guardado then ran away and officers chased him into an alley in the back of a building where he was killed, Capt. Kent Wegener, head of the homicide bureau, said in a press conference in June. While a 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol that hadn't been fired was found at the scene, authorities are unable to clarify whether Guardado ever aimed the gun at deputies."
An LA County sheriff's deputy shot Guardado in the back five times after seeing him run away holding a gun that wasn't aimed at them and wasn't ever fired. He was chased into an alley and shot — I repeat, in the back — and killed by Deputy Miguel Vega, who is presumably also Hispanic.
Clearly Guardado is a person that fits the "safely murderable" profile — poor (he worked as an unregistered security guard in a neighborhood body shop in Compton is not a middle-class job); Hispanic in a majority-Hispanic city; male; and young.
Tattoo alleged to identify membership in the murderous band of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who many in the community "see as a criminal gang within law enforcement". Photo: Sweeney Firm / Glickman & Glickman
So why was Guardado killed? It turns out that this is no ordinary police crime, not some random cop-on-the-loose violence, but a killing that acted, according to the sworn testimony of Sheriff's Department whistleblower Austreberto (Art) Gonzalez, like a gang initiation along the lines of the familiar mafia lines: "Kill someone to show us what you're made of."
This time, however, the gang was a subgroup within the LASD — a subset of sheriff's deputies — who called themselves the "Executioners." Membership in this "gang" (I think it's safe to call them that) even sport a gang tattoo, pictured above. According to this LA Times report, that "clique" that "dominates every aspect of life" at the Compton station.
Spectrum News obtained a copy of Gonzales' sworn testimony on this and other gangs within police departments and wrote this in a report of the Guardado shooting:
The deputy who shot and killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado outside a car shop in Gardena was a prospective member of a violent clique inside the Compton Sheriff’s station, according to the sworn testimony of a whistleblower. ...
More than a dozen deputies have matching tattoos and belong to a violent clique called the Executioners at the station, according to Deputy Art Gonzalez, who filed a whistleblower complaint regarding the Executioners in June.
“I now call them a gang because that’s what gangs do – they beat up other people,” Gonzalez said.
His sworn testimony obtained by Spectrum News is for a separate excessive force case filed against Los Angeles County. The deputies in the lawsuit are accused of “chasing ink” – slang for trying to impress the Executioners to join their group.
“There are parties after shootings. They call them ‘998 parties.’ Some people say it’s to celebrate the deputy is alive. Others say it’s to celebrate that they’re going to be ‘inking’ somebody.”
Gonzalez, testifying for nearly six hours under oath, said the existence of the clique was “common knowledge” at the station and that the gang’s so-called shot caller controlled the work schedule and their actions boosted arrest numbers.
It's pretty clear from the name how you get into a gang of sheriff's deputies called the "Executioners" — you need a killing to your name. Gonzales, from the LA Times report noted above:
“Nearly all the CPT [Compton] Deputies who have been involved in high-profile shootings and out-of-policy beatings at CPT in recent years have been ‘inked’ members of The Executioners,” the claim alleges. “‘Inking’ refers to the act of each newly made member of The Executioners receiving a matching tattoo indicating membership in the organization. …
Members become inked as ‘Executioners’ after executing members of the public, or otherwise committing acts of violence in furtherance of the gang.”
Spectrum News says Gonzalez is now on leave from the department and claims to be, correctly I assume, "in fear for his life." Since Gonzales has testified, two more deputies have come forward with similar information.
The Times report is also filled with allegations of other gangs within other policing departments, groups carrying names like the Vikings, Spartans, Regulators, Grim Reapers and Banditos. "Executioners" is a much more on-the-nose name, But Grim Reapers is close.
There's even this gruesome detail: "A top jail official had described exclusive gangs of deputies in Men’s Central Jail who would “earn their ink” by breaking inmates’ bones."
All this we permit in the name of "keeping the peace." The only peace that's kept is that of the safely "unmurderable" — the affluent, the connected, the well-intergrated into society's higher reaches.
The Tale Behind the Tale
There is clearly a larger story, of course, in the encouragement and celebration of violence within America's police and sheriff's departments, a story that our peace-promoting press doesn't report. It's better, in their minds, to "keep the peace" by keeping the violence one-sided — by not reporting the story in a way that would incite retaliation — than by reporting the whole truth, that there are death squads inside many of our policing agencies that are never punished or brought to heel.
But the tale behind the tale is being told by the few, but buried, reports like those from the LA Times and Spectrum News, and by the evidence of our eyes as we watch citizen videos of appalling acts of violence and murder by police — each one unpunished.
That evidence is clear — police, formed to deliver violence to the unwashed and unruly of the 19th century, deliver that same violence to the unwashed and unruly of ours. The worst among them live and love to do it. It's why they get up in the morning. The best among them ... they let the worst run free.
Will this be the year, in our Covid-destroyed economy, when civil unrest tips itself over the edge, no matter which candidate becomes the (violently contested) president in the end?
Are we seeing the start of a "rolling civil war" between our nation's out-of-control police and a citizenry broken by the rich and their absolute refusal to free us from a destruction we cannot ourselves escape?
Are we seeing the start of an era when the "safely murderable" — not just by police, but by the whole of society as it's currently led and run — will rise and say "no more"?
There are worse bets in the world.
Tlaxcala's Note: Andrés Guardado is the latest name to add to the list of young Latin@s killed by LA Sheriff's murder gangs, Eric Rivera, Paul Rea, César Rodríguez, Daniel Hernández, Christopher Okamoto, Alex Flores, Vanessa Márquez, Anthony Daniel Vargas...
►On the same topics read In L.A. County, Gangs Wear Badges, by Zak Cheney-Rice, Intelligencer, Sept. 4, 2020