SOUTH LOS ANGELES – The summer of 2020 has been hard on most Americans.
Jimmy Daniel says it’s been even harder if you’re black.
“We are on edge. We are tired. We are upset,” Daniel said as he washed his car a few blocks away from the South Los Angeles Sheriff’s station, a flashpoint for protests in recent weeks.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows the streets better than this retired mailman, who also heads the West Athens Westmont Community Task Force, an organization dedicated to curbing violence in the community.
Daniel lives just a short drive away from where two deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee, a black man riding his bicycle. Deputies say Kizzee was reaching for a gun when they opened fire, shooting and killing him.
The incident took Daniel back to his experience forty years ago, when he was suddenly racially profiled by the Los Angeles Police Department while on a date with his girlfriend. He was withdrawing money from an ATM when he heard someone yell “bite the concrete!”
He turned to see police had their guns drawn.
“They’re cocking pump-action shot guns and weapons are pointed at me and they tell me to get on the ground, face down, on the concrete,” Daniel recalled. The police told him he fit the description of a robbery suspect and forced him to wait in handcuffs until a witness said he was innocent of the crime.
“We’re not crying out to just be crying out,” Daniel said of the inequality he sees in America.
The South L.A. Sheriff’s station is run by Captain Duane Allen who can’t comment on the Kizzee case, which is under investigation by the homicide bureau.
The summer of 2020 has been disturbing to him for a number of reasons.
“2019 this area hit all-time low on crime. It was incredible. The community was coming out. It was a great thing to see but 2020 has reversed that,” Allen said.
Amid nightly protests at the station, the community has suffered from an unrelated surge in violence, with seven shootings and one homicide in the last week.
Then, two deputies were ambushed and shot in nearby Compton.
“All of a sudden it brings back that reality that this kind of thing can happen to me. So then you do feel those emotions of how you potentially can be a target because you wear a uniform,” Allen said.
While the pandemic kept them apart, Daniel and Allen came together for the first time this week in six months to talk about violence in the community.
Daniel’s first question after everything that happened:
“How are the deputies doing?”
He says he chose to see the deputy’s humanity, which is exactly what he’s asking them to see in him.