A Teenager Killed by Deputies, A Missing Gun and Community Rage

The father of a 16-year-old teenager who was shot and killed Sunday by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy stood in front of a packed church seeking answers.

“Where’s the gun? Where’s the gun?” John Weber asked sheriff’s officials as the crowd backed him up with chants and shouts. Sitting at a table with department officials Wednesday evening were members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, their faces grim. “I know where the bullets are — they’re right in my baby’s back,” Weber yelled.

The death of another young black man accused of possessing a weapon was a cruel blow in this South Los Angeles neighborhood that bears a disproportionate burden of violent crime, and it comes at a time when such encounters are under intense scrutiny nationwide.

Wednesday’s emergency meeting, called in the wake of the shooting of Anthony Weber in Westmont, was intended to quell the inevitable anger among residents who already have a fractured relationship with law enforcement. But there was little dialogue, and it only seemed to inflame tensions that have long simmered and were stoked when, in the aftermath of the shooting, officials accused neighbors of taking a gun allegedly carried by the dead teenager.

That gun is still missing.

The meeting was cut short after a comment made by a Sheriff’s Department homicide captain prompted loud outrage. By Thursday, activists were calling for California’s attorney general to mount an independent investigation into the shooting.

At the meeting Wednesday night, people shouted “Stop lying” at the department officials, along with profanities. At one point, Anthony Weber’s older brother, also named John Weber, stood to address the panel and asked whether there was a “flaw” in the system and whether the family and community were “due something.”

“Absolutely not,” replied Capt. Chris Bergner.

The comment immediately drew jeers as community members stood and began chanting. Officials, including Bergner, left out a side door. Community members and family were offended by the response.

In a statement Thursday morning, the Sheriff’s Department said Bergner couldn’t hear the question being asked because of the noise in the room. He heard, “Don’t you think we are doomed?” the department said.

“That is the only reason why he replied ‘Absolutely not,'” the statement said. Bergner declined to comment Thursday and referred queries to the Sheriff’s Department’s information bureau.

Xavier Thompson, a pastor and vice chairman of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, said that the department missed an opportunity to “foster better community relations” and that its response to the gaffe was even more troubling.

“I think this is typical damage control that law enforcement engages in when one of their own makes an offense,” he said. “We will not settle for spin.”

Thompson, who is leading the commission’s ad hoc committee on use of force by deputies, said Anthony Weber’s shooting death will be a driving force as the group prepares to issue findings and recommendations to the department.

Kevin “Twin” Orange, 54, who works with young people in the area and was raised in Westmont, said deputies used to know youths better than they do now, and “watched us grow up.” That relationship has since deteriorated, and Orange said more dialogue needs to happen between the community and law enforcement.

For full story visit: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-deputy-teen-shooting-20180209-story.html