The photo says it all. Actually it says too much, too painfully. A sweet face, full of humor and kindness, some mama’s baby who grew up to be good man. A Cypress Park kid who could have gone another direction but instead decided that his life’s calling was to protect and serve.
A husband, a father of three kids, served in the military, about to buy a home away from the old neighborhood, loved being a cop.
This is not the kind of guy you want to bury.
Today, the LA Times has a new take on the murder of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Abel Escalante, who was shot to death early Saturday morning outside his house, just as he was about to head to work. It seems that Deputy Escalante was working the High Power unit in Men’s Central Jail—where the so-called baddest of the bad are housed—the Eme and the like.
Investigators were also considering the possibility that neighborhood gang violence or a personal grudge were behind the killing.
“As of right now, all of those possibilities are on the table,” said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz.
Of course, the notion of High Power being the place where all the most violent are housed is not always the case, not by a long shot. I’ve known guys to be housed in High Power for absurdly irrational reasons. And I’ve known of really bad guys who were simply left to hang out in the general population. Jail classification is an inexact science, shall we say.
Last night, I discussed the murder with a LASD Deputy who worked with Juan Escalante at CJ—as Men’s Central Jail is called. (Albeit, the person I spoke with was someone of a slightly higher rank than Deputy Escalante.)
I told him about the LA Times article. He said, among other things, that barring evidence of which he may be unaware, he doesn’t see the High Power angle as putting Deputy Escalante more at risk. “I don’t think that’s the case,” he said, about the high power connection. “The really bad guy can just as easily be in general pop.”
Or it could be just some fool out on the street who did it, I said. “Yeah, it could,” he agreed. “He grew up in a tough neighborhood,” he said.
Which means it also could have also been some horrible case of mistaken identity, as it was with the deputy’s mother who was shot out in West Whittier because stupid tagger kids thought they were shooting at the home of another tagger. (If Deputy Juan Escalante was shot by mistake, is that more tragic or less?)
As Deputy Chief Diaz said, it’s all on the table.
But about the murdered officer himself, in addition to the things we’ve already heard about Deputy Escalante—that he was a good dad, a good police officer, a good man—the CJ Deputy talked about his humility, his unusually strong desire to learn. “He was one of those guys who loved information. I mean loved it. He was always seeking to better himself., you know what I mean? If there was any way he could learn something that would help him understand things better, or help him do better when he began to work on the street, he was ready to go for it.”
The Deputy thanked me for caring enough to ask. “I wish one of us didn’t have to get killed—or do something wrong—for the press to want to write about us,” he said.
I know, I said.
“Thanks for caring anyway, though,” he said.
Surely we all do.
By the way, whoever the killer turns out to be, I have one small request: could we please not propose some kind of new law in order assuage our grief and anger over the death of Juan Escalante?