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Unrest continues in Westlake District

September 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a less than warm welcome for Chief Charlie Beck, as the head of the Los Angeles Police Department tried to calm an angry crowd at a community meeting in Westlake on Wednesday night.Amid accusations and cries for justice, the majority of the roughly 300 people who packed into the auditorium at John H. Liechty Middle School lashed out against Beck and the department for what they said was an unjustified officer-involved shooting.

"It's about peace," said one man at the meeting. "But my people taught me, where there is no justice, there can be no peace."

Manuel Jamines was shot dead Sunday near the corner of 6th Street and Union Avenue when he allegedly lunged at a police officer with a knife.

On Wednesday, Beck read a statement from a witness who said Jamines tried to stab a pregnant woman.

"She referred to the officers as her angels that descended from heaven, and she said that the officers saved her life and that of the pregnant lady," said Beck, as the crowd expressed disapproval.

Beck said officers had about 40 seconds to make life or death decision.

The officer who fired the shot has been placed on administrative leave.

On the streets outside, another night of unrest near the intersection where Jamines was killed.

Patrol cars were pelted with rocks and small fires were set. Officers in riot gear kept a close watch on the crowd as police helicopters circled overhead.

The Westlake District is home to many people from Central America.

Officers who patrol this community are taking the events of the last three days pretty hard.

"The vast majority of Rampart officers are Spanish-speaking officers. They interact with the community on a daily basis," said LAPD Lt. Cory Palka. "The officers involved in the shooting are bicycle officers who were on foot and have a high presence and a high visibility in the community. They're very sensitive and it's very difficult to deal with an issue like this."

"It's not right. Why would you kill an innocent person? Probably he was drunk, but they could have taken the situation professionally," said a protester.

Jamines was a construction worker from Guatemala, where he leaves behind a wife and three children. He has cousins in Los Angeles who are trying to raise money to send his body back to his homeland.

Beck wants people who witnessed the events leading up to the deadly shooting to contact the Guatemalan Consulate if they don't feel comfortable giving information to police.

"More people from Guatemala need to stop violence. Don't damage cars, don't damage people. Everybody needs to talk," said another Westlake District resident Gustavo Villatoro.

"If a cop kills somebody, and then the whole community goes crazy, what does that say about us? What does that say of the Hispanic community?" said Westlake resident Daniel Mendoza.

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