L.A. wounds are far from healed
Haya El Nasser; Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES - People here want to believe that the sentencing of Damian
Williams ends one of the city's worst racial nightmares.
But if the anger and outrage heard in black and white neighborhoods Tuesday are
any indication, this city's wounds are far from healed. Everywhere, people
debated Williams' sentence.
"If Williams had walked, I'd be really mad," says writer Roy Garcia, 28, thrilled
that Williams got the maximum 10 years for his attack on white trucker Reginald
Denny and four others during last year's riots.
Garcia was angered by the acquittals of four white police officers accused of
beating black motorist Rodney King - which set off the riots. But, he says, "I
would never take my anger out on human beings."
South central residents such as Lavinia Brooks and Kenyon Saunders say
Williams' sentence is confirmation that the justice system is too hard on black
"They act like he was the whole riot," says dressmaker Brooks, 32.
"He shouldn't bear the burden for everybody," she says.
And so the debate continues.
Williams' lawyer plans to appeal. In January, the trial of Lance Jerome Parker -
accused of firing a gun at the fuel tank of Denny's truck - begins. In March,
King's civil suit against the city and police goes to court. And Denny is forging
ahead with plans to sue the city.
Still, city leaders hope the sentencing will push residents beyond the
controversies that have loomed for almost three years.
"We have now, I think, closed the chapter," says District Attorney Gil Garcetti,
whose office was deluged with calls from mostly white residents outraged by the
The jury acquitted Williams and Henry Watson of the most severe charges.
No violence greeted the sentencing - just angry words from Williams' relatives
"In the name of Jesus, this man has got to get off the bench," said his mother,
Georgiana Williams, who has accused Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk of
But just in case, police patrolled the infamous Florence and Normandie
intersection - the flashpoint of the riots.
It has been a case that even divided the black community.
Victoria Jackson, a 63-year-old grandmother who lives in south central, says: "I
feel good. He deserved it. . . . I hope that it's over now, that we can close the
book on the whole deal."
PHOTO,b/w,Bob Riha Jr.,Gamma-Liaison; PHOTO,b/w,Mike Nelson,AP