Officials deny link in Guard `urban war' drills, riot fears

  Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 10A

  (Copyright 1993)


  LOS ANGELES _ National Guard Cpl. Glenn Wilkinson, remembers waiting in

  frustration as one delay after another kept him from doing his job last spring

  during riots after acquittals in the Rodney King beating case.


  "I felt useless," said Wilkinson, 22. Then he adds, "This time we'll be ready."


  But as jury selection continued in a trial in the King case Wednesday, Guard

  leaders insisted a series of preparedness drills had nothing to do with anticipating

  more unrest.


  Last year the Guard was widely criticized for being slow to react: riot gear had

  been loaned to other agencies, ammunition was in short supply. Still, some feel

  officials may be jumping to conclusions about reaction to a King verdict, or one

  in the trial of three black men charged with beating trucker Reginald Denny.


  The Denny trial is scheduled to start next month.


  "An exercise like this reinforces the idea that rioting will take place," said Rudy

  Garza of the Latino Coalition For a New Los Angeles.


  By early afternoon more than six hundred Guard members had been called to

  five Los Angeles area armories.


  "The tactic we're training for . . . is urban guerrilla warfare," said Guard Col.

  Roger Goodrich.


  That's a disturbing thought to some people. "There's a real dangerous mood

  here," said Los Angeles Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Joe Hicks.


  "No one wants to see a replay of what happened last spring," said Gov. Pete

  Wilson spokesman Franz Wisner. "But we've got to be prepared."

  PHOTO,b/w,Bob Riha Jr., Gamma-Liaison