Black leaders meet LAPD chief re homeless woman's shooting death

Tom Boland (
Thu, 27 May 1999 14:41:46 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  San Diego Union-Tribune  State/The Region  May 26, 1999


     Deborah Hastings, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Black community leaders spent two hours with police
Chief Bernard Parks Wednesday, venting their ``outrage'' over the shooting
death of a homeless woman who was waving a screwdriver.

``We don't consider a screwdriver a deadly weapon,'' said Brotherhood
Crusade Director Danny Bakewell, standing in front of police headquarters
following the closed-door meeting. ``Why did they even stop this woman in
the first place?''

Friday's shooting has already initiated investigations by the FBI and the
Police Commission.

Margaret L. Mitchell, a 54-year-old grandmother whose advancing mental
illness drove her onto the streets, was stopped by bicycle beat cops and
asked if she was pushing a stolen shopping cart.

Officers Edward Larrigan, 27, and Kathy Clark, 29, drew their weapons after
Mrs. Mitchell pushed the cart at them and walked away, police said. The
officers, seeking to calm the agitated woman, confronted her again,
according to Cmdr. David Kalish.

Mrs. Mitchell lunged at Larrigan with a screwdriver, forcing him to jump
away and fall on one knee, Kalish said. Larrigan then shot Mrs. Mitchell in
the chest. She died a short time later. The Wilshire Division officers have
been reassigned to detective training, Kalish said.

Bakewell, accompanied by members of the NAACP and the Nation of Islam, said
Parks pledged a ``full and comprehensive investigation.''

Despite the chief's firing of more than 50 officers in the last year,
Bakewell said ``there is a holdover of a cowboy mentality, certainly a
racist mentality'' in the department.

At the same time, rage in the black community ``is at an all-time high,''
Bakewell said. ``There is a tremendous discomfort on the part of the
community that things are happening to black people and are now moving from
black men to black women.''

Bakewell nonetheless appealed for calm during the investigations. On
Tuesday he joined about 350 protesters angry over the Mitchell shooting and
a recent decision by neighboring Riverside County's district attorney not
to prosecute officers who in December fired 23 bullets at Tyisha Miller,
killing the black teen sitting inside a locked car with a gun in her lap.
Police say she appeared unconscious but then sat up and reached for the

Contrary to earlier reports that officers Larrigan and Clark were white,
Los Angeles police spokesman Lt. Anthony Alba said Wednesday that Larrigan
is of Hispanic descent and Clark is Asian-American.

The woman's son, Richard Mitchell, hired Beverly Hills civil rights
attorney Leo Terrell, who is demanding an independent autopsy. The
coroner's office said Mrs. Mitchell died from a single shot fired at an
upward trajectory, which entered her chest and exited her back.

Terrell claims he has three witnesses who say Mrs. Mitchell, a fixture on
trendy La Brea Avenue, posed no threat when she was shot at the
intersection of Fourth Street and La Brea.

On Tuesday evening, Parks gave the Police Commission a preliminary report
of the incident, saying it is being investigated, but appears to be within
the department's officer-involved-shooting guidelines. The commission will
determine if that is true.

``Public opinion is molded daily and it's easier to be Monday morning
quarterbacks than it is to be police officers, but when it's a screwdriver
vs. a gun, the public is going to want some accountability,'' said Deirdre
Hill, a former member and current inspector general of the commission.


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