Bill Bratton Gangs Immigration & Justice Media

Jamiel Shaw and Rashomon – Los Angeles Style – UPDATED


The week that murdered high school football star Jamiel Shaw
was buried, Los Angeles community activist Najee Ali, of Project Islamic Hope, was criticized by LAPD Chief Bill Bratton for suggesting that the shooting, allegedly by 19-year-old Pedro Espinoza, was racially motivated.

That same mid-March week, LA reporter Annette Stark took heat for pushing the racial aspect to the murder in her stories for LA Citybeat.

Najee and Stark weren’t alone in their ideas. The notion that the handsome
, high-achieving young man—-who was being recruited by Stanford and other universities, and had a mother serving in Iraq—-was blown away in a random race-based murder, inflamed much of LA’s African American community. Los Angeles Wave contributing writer, Betty Pleasant, had furious exchanges with Bill Bratton, both in person and in print, about whether of not the murder was racial.

Jamiel’s distraught father, Jamiel Shaw Sr., pushed successfully
for the dismissal of the first prosecutor on the case, Michele Hanisee, because she declined to file the murder as a hate crime after the grief stricken Shaws tried to insist upon it.

Now, at least two of the people who researched more deeply into the circumstance
s surrounding the murder—Project Hope’s Ali and reporter Stark—have reversed their original views that Jamiel Shaw was killed for racial reasons. They are joined in this perspective by gang expert, Alex Alonso, who first broke that part of the story last week.

Both Ali and Stark now believe that Jamiel Shaw’s murder
was purely gang related, that he was shot because the shooter believed him to be a member of the Rollin 20’s NHB (Neighborhood Bloods), a Blood set that was very much at odds with 18th Street, the gang of which the suspected shooter was reputedly a member.

Stark has an extensively reported story on the subject coming out in the LA Weekly
a week from this Thursday in which she writes about what she now believes is Shaw’s gang affiliation, as demonstrated in multiple areas on MySpace. (The story was bounced by LA Citybeat, and snatched up by the Weekly.)

Najee Ali has been similarly persuaded that Shaw-
–whether out of youthful confusion and foolishness, or something more—was being dangerously provocative with gang references by him and his friends on his MySpace page(s).

jamiel-web-1.gif jamiel-red-tennis-shoes.gif
(These are samplings…click to enlarge)

With this in mind, Ali held a press conference yesterday morning and,
together with a “coalition of community leaders, “called for MySpace and Facebook to “aggressively monitor and remove profiles that promote and glorify gang violence.”

Jamiel Shaw the 17-year-old L.A.High football star
who was gunned down on March 2 by an alleged gang member was a frequent MySpace user. On his profiles he claimed membership in his neighborhood street gang and posed for pictures flashing gang signs. Shaw also threatened violence on his MySpace pages against rival gangs causing many people to now believe that Shaw was gunned down not because of his race but because of his gang…associations that were promoted by MySpace. announcing their intention to request that FaceBook and MySpace ban any and all gang references…”

I spoke to Najee Ali several times yesterday,
and he told me that he feels guilty about being one of the first who publicly rushed to judgment about the racial nature of the tragic killing.

“A lot of Black Los Angeles was infuriated and heartbroken
with the initial reports” of the killing’s possible racial nature, he said, and he feels he may have helped fan that fury. “I was the one who organized the candlelight vigil and things like that,” he said.

But now, Ali says, he has examined Shaw’s MySpace pages (evidently, Jamiel Shaw had more than one, although they have now reportedly been taken down). Ali has also spoken to others in Shaw’s community, and he is “convinced,” that either Shaw was a gang member, or he was perceived as one because of his neighborhood associations, and because of his MySpace postings.

“Maybe Jamiel’s Law should be transformed into a resolution
to hold Myspace and Facebook accountable when they allow pages up that promote gang culture,” he said. “I believe that Jamiel was an outstanding athlete and a really good kid, and that his death was tragic. But he was also someone who claimed membership in the Bloods street gang on MySpace.”

The point of this discussion, by the way
, is not to “blame the victim” says Ali, but to raise awareness of the elements that likely triggered a tragedy, and so to promote changes that might help keep other tragedies like Jamiel’s death from occurring. He is joined in his efforts by other activists like the mother of 14-year-old Cheryl Green, the girl murdered two years ago in the Harbor Gateway area in a gang-related case of racial targeting.

In the last week, conservative radio hosts like KABC’s rabidly anti-immigrant, Doug McIntyre, plus Jamiel’s father, Jamiel Shaw Sr.
have called suggestions that the murdered boy was gang identified or affiliated in some way or another, to be a “smear.”

Ali sighed at the accusation. “The truth is never a smear,” he said.

I would agree. As I said in an earlier post, my gut feeling is that Jamiel Shaw
was not a gang member at all, but that may have had longtime friends who were, and he also may have been an outstanding, high-achieving kid who gave in to the temptation to be tough and provocative on his MySpace pages.

Does that make his death any less heartbreaking? Of course not. But it makes it makes it all the more frustrating that his murder and his parents’ grief are being so opportunistically exploited by those with political agendas—and without the will to do the hard work necessary to genuinely address the plague that is gang violence.


Okay, so why talk about the gang association a dead kid may or may not have had? This is a reasonable question posed by WLA commenters and others. What good does it do?— other than to unnecessarily tarnish a good young man’s reputation?

Here’s another part of the answer,
and something I did not post about originally:

In the world of gangs it’s hardly new news to say that most violence is in retaliation for other violence.

In the case of the Jamiel Shaw murder,
various sources have told me that, predictably, some of Jamiel’s friends who are grieving and furious at his death, are talking about retaliation—-and they’re doing it online, and elsewhere. If we correctly diagnose why and how this happened, we—law enforcement, parents, community members—-have a better chance of arresting the tit-for-tat cycle and preventing more kids from getting killed—or killing. (This is also one of the back door reasons that Najee Ali had his press conference, and that others who have information have been leaking it.)

If we pretend that this is a racial motivated murder
by a single gang member/sociopath, that is simply bad diagnosis. And bad diagnosis never gets you to a cure—be it symptomatic or systemic.


  • So that reg doesn’t get his feelings hurt by my commenting before him, I will defer any comment until he has had that chance.

  • I have three questions that, IMHO, make this discussion – whatever one concludes – cloudy in context, at best.

    First, aren’t these racially-based gangs ? So if a guy from one gang shoots someone on the other gang’s turf who COULD be a member of an opposing gang, race is obviously the marker.

    Second, didn’t the shooter just get out of prison the day before, or something like that ? So I doubt that he was checking out Jamiel Shaw’s myspace pages. Frankly, although I could be wrong, I doubt that this is the kind of data collection that gang members who have full access to computers do in order to determine what crazy act of violence – even homicide – they’re going to engage in. Correct me if I underestimate the techonological sophistication surrounding crazy, unhinged kids doing crazy unhinged things. The point of this is that while Jamiel Shaw may well have had gang associations – I don’t know – what a kid writes on their myspace page isn’t evidence. It’s only evidence of bragging and bloviating about gangs. If internet posting was itself proof of the assertions as claimed, it would be incumbent upon all of us who read this blog to assume that Woody actually knows something important about global warming that we’re not privy to.

    Given that it’s extremely unlikely Shaw’s killer was scouring Myspace, is there any corroborating evidence that Jamiel Shaw had any beef with the guy other than he happened to “look” like a guy who might be in a rival gang ? If not, this entire dicussion strikes me as pointless. What distinction are we making that could possibly matter in the context of the groups involved – i.e. hardcore gang members divided along racial liines and clusters of other neighborhood kids who might either be friendly with gang members out of peer pressure or survival instinct, or who might claim gang associations that are thin or nonexistent in order to impress. It’s incumbent upon these reporters to come up with some gang members or close observers to corroborate the myspace “evidence” if they’re going to put it out there that Shaw was killed because he was known as a gang member to rivals.

    3. Even if Jamiel Shaw WAS an “associate” of the local gang and was killed because he appeared to be a gang member, it’s a killing that’s hardly less reassuring to anyone in either neighborhood. The point is that unless there was some incident that precipitated the killing, this was a kid getting shot at random because he looked a certain way. Kind of like when people get beat up for looking gay. Barring Shaw being involved in some kind of threat or incident, this attempt to somehow rationalize this as “not being about race” strikes me as stupid. As I said, the gangs themselves are about race and territoriality – brown kids on one side are implicated in this insanity whether they want to be or not and black kids on the other side implicated as well. The way this case has played out, with the grieving parents and black community incensed and a lot of defensive fog coming from the direction of the Latino community attempting to “demote” this from a racial incident to a gang incident (which moves the discussion where exactly in terms of how people are supposed to react to it) the whole Kabuki of denial is just more proof that there’s an ugly racial tinge to this mess. As I’ve said before, the very act of attempting to make a distinction without any apparent difference on the part of some observers is what seems most telling, i.e. protesting too much.

  • Let me add one thing – I’m not a fan of “hate crime” legislation. I think it is dubious law, although I’m not a lawyer or legal scholar. But assuming it’s a valid concept and doesn’t simply unnecessarily embroider existing laws against murder, assault, etc., why isn’t it a “hate crime” to just go out and shoot some guy who you’ve never seen before because they look like they might belong to a rival gang ? I don’t see any difference. These gangs are obviously organized criminal enterprises at some level, but they’re also affinity groups – probably more importantly for the average member – so unless you’re killing a rival gang member over a dope deal gone bad or because he screwed your cousin or some such crap, you’re attacking them soley based on presumed identity.

  • Wow, reg got up so early to beat me, that his first comment came in at 5:56 AM! Unfortunately, the comment surpassed by comment word limit, so I didn’t read it.

  • Reg, maybe you’re right, that why in the hell do we care whether he was associated with a gang or not? A good an promising kid is dead, so what else do we need to know?

    On the other hand, in LA, the whole race issue has gotten so hot, that it feels important to distinguish. Most gang crimes (as has been said a zillion times before) are either black on black or brown on brown. But sometimes the beef is between two gangs where the race is different, as in this case.

    No, of course, I don’t think that Jamiel Shaw’s killer was spending his time online. That isn’t the point. If Shaw was acting out online, it is logical and likely, given how kids behave, that his acting out existed elsewhere.

    And the shooter likely didn’t come out of jail, get a gun and go blow somebody away. He likely hung out with his homeboys, got pumped up over something or other, and then want out and did a monstrous, sociopathic thing.

    I’ve heard that there was a precipitating incident. But I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know how credible this is.

    By the way, in the case of the press conference, this isn’t the Hispanic community trying to change the subject. It’s African American activists hoping to change and clarify the race-charged dialogue.

    As for the hate crime, with that reasoning pretty much anything could be a hate crime.

    I don’t like the whole hate crime thing, at all. I figure if someone commits a murder, we’ve got plenty of laws that allow us to prosecute them adequately and fully for that murder, without having to add so-called enhancements, like turning it into a hate crime.

    Where it might be useful is with low level crimes that indicate the potential for escalation because of their nature, so call for penalties with more teeth than those that would kick in simply for the underlying crime.

  • Again, it’s the “what” people do rather than the “why.” I don’t care why they did, but I want to be sure that they know what they’re going to get because of it. I suspect that if California fried murderers, that it would make an impression on gang members.

    (reg, thanks for the plug on my expertise regarding global warming. Here is today’s post which came from information that I sent the blog author: Flannery: Change the Sky’s Colour. Now, I am suggesting that we sacrifice virgins on temple mounts to the climate gods.)

  • “in LA, the whole race issue has gotten so hot, that it feels important to distinguish”

    That points to a big problem, to which this discussion about how deeply involved a kid who’s dead and can’t defend his reputation was in a criminal gang is a micro-solution at best. I have a funny feeling that chalking this killing up to “gang violence” and tagging Jamiel Shaw with gang connections isn’t going to do anything to ameliorate the “whole race issue that has gotten so hot.” Just a hunch… It’s admirable for leaders and activists in all the communities involved to try to reduce tensions and seek common solutions, but making the focus of this whether or not this kid was actually involved in a gang seems creepy. It’s all well and good to state that “the truth is never a smear”, but we happen to be talking about a person who’s dead for no good reason. Unless there is proof of an incident, trying to rationalize this by digging up his online comments or insinuate gang involvement is, yes, smearing a crime victim who can’t defend themself. Wrong IMHO.

    On the hate crime thing, I’m dubious as well – but it makes just as much sense to call a killing a “hate crime” if it’s motivated by tensions between groups called “Sharks and Jets” as between whites and Puerto Ricans.

  • Reg, when we’re starting to have a useful dialogue in this city about gang violence, in which a lot of kids are killed for no good reason, and because of a particularly heartbreaking murder, the conversation gets hijacked my anti-immigrant politics, and by racial paranoia, then I think it helps to yank it back to where it belongs.

    There’s more to the Jamiel Shaw situation, specifically, but some of those facts aren’t mine to reveal. They need to wait until the LA Weekly article comes out.

    In any case, I appreciate you playing devils advocate.

  • Celeste: “… the conversation gets hijacked my anti-immigrant politics”

    So, we can just blow off sincere and reasonable explanations and suggestions by saying that those points “hi-jack” the discussion, or put another way, you just don’t want to hear it. No wonder no improvements occur.

  • Reg “stole” my thoughts in his very early comments, just a few minutes behind Woody. While Celeste feels that any mention of the fact that Pedro Espinoza was in the country illegally, can only be made by “rabidly anti-immigrant, Doug McIntyre, types” there are also those groups “rabidly” pandering for illegal aliens, who are trying to minimize the murder of Jamiel Shaw to draw attention away from the fact that Pedro Espinoza and thousands of other criminals are in the country illegally. Sheriff Baca estimates that 25% of his jail inmates are illegal aliens; you won’t hear the Mayor, Reyes, Huizar, Alarcon and most city clowncil members ever mention that fact. Why would we not want the LAPD cops to arrest and deport gang members who are in the country illegally? One does not to be “rapid” to want the police and INS/ICE to enforce immigration laws, anybody in L.A. knows the Mayor and other city politicians do NOT want any type of immigration enforcement.

    The Mayor and police Chief ignore the racial violence by latino gangs in Los Angeles; there have been many racially motivated murders and attempted murders. Remember Avenues gang, Florencia gang, 204st Harbor Gateway gang, and murders in Hawaiian Gardens, San Fernando, Valley and Monrovia? The mayor wants to hire more and more cops, while at the same time expecting cops to ignore the fact that a large percentage of gang members are illegal aliens.

  • I agree with LR at #11, but DA Steve Cooley is complicit, as well. He routinely plea bargains felonies down to early release, and his main challengers, Asst. DA Steve Ipsen and non-attorney Albert Robles, both say he won’t touch the issue of illegal immigrant gang members and felons either, on principle. However, as DA, it’s his job to prosecute felonies and he has hundreds of staff investigators who are supposed to do this, and a thousand attorneys.

    He prefers to blame Sheriff Baca for this failure, when Baca doesn’t have the investigators devoted to this, and ICE has only two investigators assigned to all the county jails. Between then, they missed Espinoza, took his WORD that he was born in the U.S., and released him — when he was on LAPD’s list, but that was kept from these other law enforcement agencies. Sure SP40 and local political pandering are to blame for the illegal gang problem, but so is the DA — he’s almost worse, because he won’t even admit his duplicity, and claims to be tough on crime while doing just the opposite. He claims that as a Republican, he’s not part of the “City Hall clique,” but he’s allegedly even worse, taking his orders from the criminal defense attorneys who represent some top revenue generators for the Mex. Cartels.

    Instead, he pulls DA’s OFF cases when they get too close, especially to high-profile known criminals like the officials in Bell, Cudahy, HG, etc., known to be on the payroll of the Mexican Drug Cartels — a group he’d promised to prosecute if elected over Gil Garcetti.

    Ch. 36 aired a two-part, one-hour interview with Ipsen and Robles Monday night on “Full Disclosure,” hosted by Leslie Dutton (who claims Cooley sent his thugs to intimidate her into not documenting the recent Gang Summit hosted by Bratton and attended by law enforcement from across the western Hemisphere, incl. Baca, the CA, etc., but snubbed by him).

    See for interview excerpts.

  • LR, I’m for deporting people like Pedro Espinoza, as I’ve said here multiple times. He SHOULD have been deported. As to why he wasn’t, start leaning on Lee Baca and the Sheriff’s department. Ask them.

    I’ll say it once again: Gang members—-or anyone else for that matter—who are convicted of most any felony (and certainly anything gun-related) face mandatory deportation according to federal law. Their status is supposed to be determined when they are in jail.

    So why was Pedro Espinoza not deported? You tell me. It has zero to do with SO 40.

    News flash: being a gang member is not a crime. Committing crimes makes you a criminal. Dressing a certain way and hanging out with the wrong people does not. So do I want the police tasked with monitoring the immigration status of the hangers on, the wannabes, and the young men who ought to have better taste in friends, and targeting them for deportation?

    No I do not. If you’re going that route, at least be honest about it and say you want to wipe S.O. 40 altogether.

    But personally, the last thing I want my overstressed police force to be doing is chasing after non-criminal, undocumented gang members. We think we’ve got a bad response time now….pass some damn fool law like that and see what you get.

    I’m sick to death of the rhetoric on this. Deport criminals. Please. Nobody’s stopping anybody from doing that. And if those who run the LA County jails and ICE are NOT deporting convicted criminals without papers, they’re not doing their jobs. Focus your attention on them, not on those of us who want a consistent, rational, practical gang policy.

    PS: And, yes, of course, there are race-related gang murders where people are targeted solely because of the color of their skin. 14 year-old Cheryl Green is the perfect terrible example. Or Anthony Prudhomme, who wrote lovely poetry. Or Christopher Bowser who was shot in December of 2000 while waiting for the bus, two weeks before Christmas. But let’s call those race-based murders for what they are and not incorrectly label those that are not.

    Oh, yeah, and the shooters who killed all of the people listed above were U.S. citizens.

    Thanks for commmenting, LR, but this stuff makes me nuts.

  • Gangs wars? The 18th Street gang and the Bloods…like Israelis and Arabs, Mafia families, Hatfields and McCoys–all long-term feuds? Don’t look for a solution any time soon.

    If you have two kids fighting, what do you do? Well, if they won’t quit fighting and they won’t make up, you separate them. How do you separate gangs? Well, don’t allow trouble makers from another country into this country and don’t allow them to stay here if they sneak in.

    Oh, I’m sorry. That’s hijackinig the conversation.

    Celeste, you care for people so much that you won’t suggest cures that might offend them. That distracts from finding a solution and makes you no help.

  • I’m not sure how “demoting” this from a purely racially motivated murder (which I doubt it was given the affiliation of, at the least, the shooter and that it apparently happened on rival turf) to a purely gang-related murder makes the potential for retaliation any less real. In fact, if it’s documented that it’s gang related – whether because of tangible gang associations by Shaw or simply mistaken identity or a false assumption of gang membership by the shooter – and not a “hate crime” by an individual as some have characterized it, doesn’t that actually up the ante ? Certainly it’s incumbent on activists and community leaders and friends of the victim to step in and try to stop any retaliation, but this whole bit about “was he or wasn’t he” seems like a dubious discussion that doesn’t lead to anything other than to cast the victim in a negative light. I’d be outraged on top of the pain if I were his parent.

    And at least some of this discourse does seem to be related to the fact that there are groups involved with an agenda that demands that any and all questions about illegal immigration status not ever be part of a police investigation prior to actual arrest and incarceration. I totally understand why police shouldn’t put a priority on enforcing immigration law, but to take any such questions off the table totally in pursuit of criminal suspects – or forbid using immigration enforcement against known suspects – especially serial suspects who it’s hard to make a case against – makes zero sense. This kind of wall around a single category of law – which IMHO SHOULD be subject to an explicit policy of very discretionary enforcement by local police, including giving a pass to likely gang members who aren’t suspected of any particular crimes – seems more likely the result of a political agenda by folks who want the line between legal and illegal immigration to be declared nonexistent than a policy of respecting police professionalism and “best practices.”

  • Gotta agree with reg on the last part especially: the way Bratton denigrates those favoring some version of Jamiel’s Law or just clarifying and using the teeth that do exist in SO40 as “Immigration Haters,” reflects “a political agenda by folks who want the line between legal and illegal immigration to be declared nonexistent.” And Celeste, that includes you, as is clear from all your previous posts, regardless of subject (gangs, schools, law enforcement and penalties, crime in general, intervention programs…)

    But again, I must point out that there’s plenty of blame and lack of coordination to go around, extending first and foremost to the DA Steve Cooley’s office, by design, while he has the specific charge of prosecuting felonies and has by far the biggest, most highly paid staff to do it; then to the Sheriff’s Dept., INS/ICE, and on down the line. But the pressure they feel (especially Baca and ICE, Cooley doesn’t care what they think) from our local leadership and LAPD Brass to butt out of L A’s affairs when it comes to prosecuting and deporting illegal criminals, has a chilling effect on efforts to coordinate databases and enforcement.

  • News flash – If you sneak into the country you are here “illegally” not undocumented.

    News Flash – If you are using a fake I.D. and social security number you are committing another crime.

    When has the L.A. Mayor, Huizar, Reyes and Alarcon ever supported ANY type of immigration enorcement? When ICE/INS does it’s job these clowns are screaming about unfair and unjust immigration enforcement.

    Reg is right again when he says

    seems more likely the result of a political agenda by folks who want the line between legal and illegal immigration to be declared nonexistent than a policy of respecting police professionalism and “best practices..”

    Countries We have immigration laws for a reason.

  • So do I want the police tasked with monitoring the immigration status of the hangers on, the wannabes, and the young men who ought to have better taste in friends, and targeting them for deportation?

    Hell yes, I want these dumb asses deported, if you are here being an idiot, I say “Hasta La Vista Baby.”

  • Hello all, this is Albert Robles candidate for District Attorney – the only Democrat running.

    I am an attorney. I graduated from UC Berkeley Law School with honors. I also was a judicial extern for the Chief Judge, of the United States District Court, Central District of California, i.e., in Downtown LA.

    Moreover, I am the only candidate with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, which is what the District Attorney is – an administrator of a large County Department.

    I pledge to be the District Attorney we all expect… “champion of the people, defender of the truth and guardian of our civil liberties.” It sounds simple enough, but the incumbent DA has failed us at each and every level.

    For more information visit my website

  • So he WAS a gang member! This changes everything. Victim was wearing red, walking with attitude and refuse to answer about his gang affiliation before getting shot. In LA, gang capital….what else do you expect! “If you play you pay”!!

Leave a Comment