Revolution #228, April 3, 2011

LAPD Murderer of Manuel Jaminez Xum Exonerated

Six months after hundreds of people in Westlake/Pico-Union took to the streets for three days to protest the cold-blooded murder of Manuel Jaminez Xum (Manuel Jaminez) by the LAPD, the instruments of bourgeois dictatorship lined up and delivered their response. On March 15, the police commission announced their decision that this murder was "within policy" of the LAPD. At almost the same time, the L.A. County District Attorney's office called the shooting "lawful" and said it would not be filing charges against the murdering cop, Frank Hernandez. These two announcements were choreographed between a morning press conference of Guatemalan "community leaders" calling on people to be peaceful after the release of the decision, and an intense police presence in the area, including cops on horses, a fortified Rampart police station, police on rooftops, and police cruisers monitoring people who gathered to protest that evening.

Manuel Jaminez was a 37-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who came to the U.S. looking for a better life for his family, and was used, broken, and ultimately killed by the workings of this system. He had been here about seven years, working as a day laborer. On the day he was killed, he was drunk and upset. According to the police commission report, many witnesses said Manuel had a knife and he was threatening passers-by on the sidewalk. Some people were concerned and fearful and called the police over to help. The police came up with guns out. Within the space of one minute of their approach, they had shot Manuel twice in the head. The cop who shot him—and who has now been completely exonerated by the bureaucracies and courts—is known in the neighborhood to be a brutal, lying pig. And after killing Manuel, the police left his body lying on the sidewalk for four hours in the middle of this heavily populated, Central American neighborhood, much the way the KKK used to leave hanging Black bodies from nooses as a warning and threat to all Black people.

According to the report of the LAPD's own police commission, several people on the street, who saw Manuel with the knife before the police came, tried to talk to him and calm him down and some were able to do so temporarily. Why is it a random person on the street could try to resolve this situation without violence, but the police—who supposedly exist to "serve and protect"—could not find any solution other than immediate execution?

As we said in a previous article, just as it would not be seen as legitimate for firefighters to let people die for fear of entering a burning building to save their own skin, police who are supposed protectors of the people have no legitimacy if they cannot risk their own safety instead of taking someone's life in less than a minute. And what does it say about the society and system as a whole when a department police chief, its "civilian" police commission, the county District Attorney, and the city mayor can all look at this kind of murder and conclude that it is "within policy," "lawful," and even that the murdering cops are "heroes"?

This system has no future for the millions like Manuel Jaminez. The message sent Tuesday is: this system will use you up, tear you down, degrade and debase you, and kill you without hesitation—and don't even think about challenging any of this. The uprising in Westlake last September sent a different message, and gave a glimpse that something else is possible. It is up to those who are part of the budding movement for revolution to connect the anger and desire of millions to be free of this day-to-day horror with the leadership that exists to make the revolution we need.

Since 2007, according to the L.A. Times, police in L.A. County have killed 159 people. They killed 11 people just in the first nine weeks of 2011. The day before the announcements came out justifying the murder of Manuel Jaminez, the Long Beach police chief held a press conference to justify the December murder of 35-year-old Douglas Zerby by Long Beach police, who surrounded Zerby in the dark without announcing their presence and opened fire, shooting him 12 times. Zerby, a white man, was drunk, sitting outside of a friend's house in the affluent neighborhood of Belmont Shore, playing with a water-hose nozzle in his hand. He never even knew the police were there. And less than two weeks ago, the L.A. police chief justified another shooting from last year, the murder of 27-year-old Steven Washington, a Black man with autism who was just walking down the street when police driving near him heard a noise and responded by shooting and killing Steven. This murder was so blatant that in this case the police commission had to disagree with the police chief, something it has done very rarely, but no criminal charges have been filed.

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