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The LAPD Officer Who Shot Daniel Hernandez Is a Firearms Influencer—and Daughter of a Powerful Police Union Figure

Before LAPD officer Toni McBride shot and killed 38-year-old Daniel Hernandez last April, she spent many off-duty hours at Taran Tactical Innovations, a Simi Valley gun range where she trained as a competitive shooter and was a rising Instagram influencer. The 23-year-old hobnobbed with the range’s celebrity clients, fired off gonzo weapons, and used her status as a model and sharp-shooting cop to amass tens of thousands of Instagram followers. At the range, a haven for action movie stars and hopefuls, McBride even made light of her LAPD division’s nickname—“Shootin’ Newton”—in a video that has come back to bite the young officer.

Now McBride’s Instagram account is private and she faces two lawsuits from the Hernandez family. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing in May, the case is one of several local police-involved shootings receiving increased attention from activists and the general public. As scrutiny around the case grows, McBride’s social media presence isn’t the only thing that’s raised eyebrows. The officer, who’s been on the force for fewer than three years, also happens to be the daughter of Jamie McBride, a powerful board member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. Given incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s political relationship to the police union, the familial tie has created a new wrinkle in the case—and in an already contentious DA’s race, which will be decided in November.

As a member of the union board of directors, the elder McBride, an LAPD detective, helped orchestrate a million-dollar attack campaign against George Gascón, the reform-minded opponent to incumbent Lacey. Since the DA’s office will be responsible for reviewing the Hernandez shooting and deciding whether or not Toni McBride is prosecuted, Gascón has called for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to take over the investigation and any decision regarding charges. In a recent phone call, Gascón opined that the process “reeks of impropriety,” and said that if he’s elected, he will appoint a special prosecutor outside his office to oversee the case.

Responding to these criticisms, Lacey’s office told Los Angeles last week that she’ll ask Becerra to review the case and decide whether there is any basis to conflict-of-interest concerns.

“District Attorney Lacey does not have a personal relationship with Jamie McBride or any member of his family,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said. “But to address any possible appearance of impropriety, District Attorney Lacey will ask the state Attorney General to independently review the matter to determine if a conflict exists.”

Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the LAPPL, which represents roughly 10,000 rank-and-file officers, says he has no qualms with Lacey’s action. He claimed Gascón is looking to “score political points at the expense of others.”

Two experts said that the shooting appears to be a textbook example of police use of deadly force against an approaching knife-wielding suspect. But another expert, along with the Hernandez family, believes McBride rushed to shoot. On April 22, a caller contacted 911 to report that a man was stabbing himself in his car after causing a multi-vehicle crash in South Los Angeles. Around 5:38 p.m., McBride happened upon the scene while responding to a separate incident, according to the LAPD’s account. By then, a growing crowd surrounded the area, including multiple onlookers who filmed the incident. In bodycam footage released by the LAPD, McBride can be seen tossing aside a snack, before she jumped out of the squad car’s passenger seat and approached the chaotic scene. In the footage a witness tells her that “he has a knife.” Soon after, a shirtless Hernandez walks toward McBride, holding an object in his right hand, which the LAPD said is a box-cutter knife.

McBride, with her pistol drawn, repeatedly ordered Hernandez to “drop the knife” as he drew closer to her, within what appears to be roughly two cars’ length. McBride then shot at him twice. Hernandez hit the ground, and as he attempted to stand, McBride shot at him four more times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Attorney Arnoldo Casillas says all six of McBride’s shots struck Hernandez. Casillas, who has represented multiple families of police shootings victims, was recently hired to represent the Hernandez’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the LAPD, and Toni McBride. Hernandez’s daughter has also filled a separate lawsuit through her guardian.

According to two experts on police use of force, McBride’s decision to shoot and continue shooting after Hernandez hit the ground was in line with standard police training. “She was taught that man was still a threat when she fired her final shots,” says former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, a prominent advocate of police reform.

“It is almost by-the-book behavior on the part of the officer,” adds Maria Haberfeld, a police science professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “She’s yelling at him ‘drop the knife!’ The only other option would be what? For her to start running.”

McBride’s attorney Larry Hanna, who has built a career representing accused police officers, reiterated those views, adding that the officer “felt very bad when she had to take a life, but she did it to preserve her life and the surrounding citizens that were there.”

Another police conduct expert, retired LAPD sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, said it’s her opinion that McBride was too quick to resort to deadly force, and suggests that the officer could have taken actions to deescalate the situation. “Especially if you talk about taking a life, I always err on the side of what’s the hurry?” Dorsey said. “If he would’ve taken another step or two, maybe he would have dropped it—we’ll never know.” Dorsey added that McBride’s four shots after Hernandez hit the ground were “unnecessary” because she had already stopped the incoming threat.

Hernandez’s family agrees. “I feel like she was set to kill. There was no attempt to deescalate whatsoever,” Hernandez’s older sister Marina Vergara said while protesting outside the Newton Division station on a recent Friday. She said her soft-spoken brother, a father who worked installing flooring, could still be alive.

“I wasn’t there that day, I don’t know what happened,” Vergara said, when asked about the 911 call alleging her brother was attempting to harm himself. “The only thing I do know is that my brother was a loving person.” The family has been staging regular demonstrations calling for justice, and Vergara has pointed to an extensive collection of Instagram posts of McBride relishing her rapid-fire shooting skills.

One video that has sparked outrage from activists was apparently filmed at Taran Tactical in December, four months before McBride shot Hernandez. It shows McBride hanging out with actor Keanu Reeves as she appears to joke about her LAPD divisions nickname, which is rooted in South Los Angeles’ high rate of homicides. “Shootin’ Newton,” Reeves quips as he learns of McBride’s assignment to the Newton Division. “Ayee he knows!” says McBride. “Shoot-in’ New-ton,” she chants with a burst of claps.

In September of last year, McBride was training at the Simi Valley range while she was off duty. During an interview with Los Angeles about Taran Tactical and its eponymous owner, who faces a sexual harassment accusation, McBride said, “I come here every day I have off.”

“When I’m shooting I have to be in that mindset of you know what, this isn’t a metal target in front of me. This is a suspect who has a knife, potentially to a victim’s throat. This is a suspect who is holding a gun at my partner right now,” McBride said. “For me I’m always putting myself in that mindset, because if I am put in a position in real life where that opportunity—or like that situation I should say—were to come, I need to know for myself ‘Hey you know what, I’ve been training like insane. I know I can take this shot, just so that I can stop the threat.’”

As it does with all officer shootings, the LAPD is conducting a months-long internal investigation into the Hernandez case. Chief Michel Moore, and the civilian police commissioners will review the incident and make their recommendations. This process is expected to stretch well beyond the November DA election, meaning, however, Becerra rules on Lacey’s possible conflict of interest, the election may ultimately decide how this case is scrutinized. In the meantime McBride is back on patrol. On Sunday she came out of a 40-day Instagram hiatus to post a selfie to her 65,000 followers.


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Afternoon Update: Goya Foods Under Fire for Exec’s Pro-Trump Comments

» Goya Foods, a staple brand in many kitchens, is in hot water after comments by company president Bob Unanue. At a White House event, he praised President Trump, including saying that “We’re all truly blessed” to have him as a leader, and that Trump is “an incredible builder.” Reaction to the statements has been swift, with many social media users and celebs calling for a boycott of Goya products and tweeting the hashtag #GoyAway. [The New York Times]

» Six additional counts of sexual assault and battery have been filed against former USC gynecologist George Tyndall. He was previously charged with 29 other felonies. The new charges relate to attacks from 2011 to 2015, all took place at USC’s health center. [Los Angeles Times]

» A $700 million building project downtown may be killed after revelations that developers may have bribed Jose Huizar to help push the project through. The condo and hotel tower slated for 1020 S. Figueroa was approved in 2017. Federal prosecutors now allege Shenzhen Hazens may have slipped Huizar and his associates around $66,000 in “consulting fees,” private jet flights, luxury hotel stays, and prostitutes. [The Real Deal]

» Some new music for your weekend: Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, and 9th Wonder have dropped an album together. The super-group calls itself Dinner Party, which they say reflects the friendship and sprit behind the project. [Consequence of Sound


RELATED: Could Jose Huizar’s Arrest Lead to a Bigger Fish in the City Hall Corruption Scandal?


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DAILY TRACKER: Updates on L.A. County’s COVID-19 Cases

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Coronavirus Cases Los Angeles, Update 7/10/2020:

Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on July 9. There are now 127,358 total confirmed cases (+2,667 from prior day). Of the cases, 9,676 have been hospitalized and there have been 3,738 deaths (+51 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Castaic, Vernon, Saugus, and the Wholesale District. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (114), Westlake (108), Pico-Union (69), and Inglewood (67).

Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Acton 33
Adams-Normandie 123
Agoura Hills 73
Agua Dulce 16
Alhambra 572
Alsace 195
Altadena 302
Anaverde 5
Angeles National Forest 5
Angelino Heights 28
Arcadia 215
Arcadia 33
Arleta 590
Artesia 140
Athens Village 89
Athens-Westmont 663
Atwater Village 103
Avalon 6
Avocado Heights 95
Azusa 815
Baldwin Hills 321
Baldwin Park 1215
Bassett 326
Bel Air 51
Bell 775
Bell Gardens 901
Bellflower 1152
Beverly Crest 63
Beverly Hills 351
Beverlywood 78
Bouquet Canyon 1
Boyle Heights 2124
Bradbury 10
Brentwood 144
Brookside 1
Burbank 678
Cadillac-Corning 56
Calabasas 145
Canoga Park 906
Canyon Country 52
Carson 809
Carthay 138
Castaic 1816
Central 1155
Century City 63
Century Palms/Cove 760
Cerritos 285
Cerritos 1
Chatsworth 335
Cheviot Hills 38
Chinatown 48
Claremont 151
Cloverdale/Cochran 164
Commerce 258
Compton 1832
Country Club Park 174
Covina 779
Covina (Charter Oak) 130
Crenshaw District 153
Crestview 129
Cudahy 551
Culver City 242
Del Aire 35
Del Rey 167
Del Sur 3
Desert View Highlands 9
Diamond Bar 243
Downey 2090
Downtown 374
Duarte 293
Eagle Rock 377
East Hollywood 382
East La Mirada 52
East Los Angeles 3018
East Pasadena 13
East Rancho Dominguez 260
East Whittier 41
Echo Park 95
El Camino Village 80
El Monte 1979
El Segundo 72
El Sereno 534
Elizabeth Lake 5
Elysian Park 40
Elysian Valley 133
Encino 262
Exposition 42
Exposition Park 605
Faircrest Heights 18
Figueroa Park Square 134
Florence-Firestone 2771
Gardena 608
Glassell Park 335
Glendale 1657
Glendora 511
Gramercy Place 122
Granada Hills 592
Green Meadows 427
Hacienda Heights 484
Hancock Park 145
Harbor City 244
Harbor Gateway 397
Harbor Pines 10
Harvard Heights 285
Harvard Park 744
Hawaiian Gardens 231
Hawthorne 922
Hermosa Beach 107
Hi Vista 1
Hidden Hills 5
Highland Park 537
Historic Filipinotown 241
Hollywood 570
Hollywood Hills 152
Huntington Park 1445
Hyde Park 357
Industry 16
Inglewood 1247
Irwindale 26
Jefferson Park 137
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 10
Koreatown 567
La Canada Flintridge 84
La Crescenta-Montrose 67
La Habra Heights 19
La Mirada 428
La Puente 623
La Rambla 70
La Verne 187
Ladera Heights 36
Lafayette Square 40
Lake Balboa 407
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 79
Lake Manor 9
Lakeview Terrace 310
Lakewood 583
Lancaster 1384
Lawndale 276
Leimert Park 137
Lennox 278
Leona Valley 14
Lincoln Heights 587
Little Armenia 267
Little Bangladesh 278
Little Tokyo 41
Littlerock 32
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 2
Littlerock/Pearblossom 39
Llano 2
Lomita 107
Long Beach 5172
Longwood 62
Los Feliz 97
Lynwood 1636
Malibu 60
Manchester Square 63
Mandeville Canyon 4
Manhattan Beach 194
Mar Vista 158
Marina del Rey 31
Marina Peninsula 20
Maywood 711
Melrose 1029
Mid-city 184
Miracle Mile 87
Mission Hills 335
Monrovia 411
Montebello 1116
Monterey Park 413
Mt. Washington 227
Newhall 3
North Hills 892
North Hollywood 1509
North Lancaster 7
North Whittier 78
Northeast San Gabriel 150
Northridge 689
Norwalk 1515
Pacific Palisades 82
Pacoima 1533
Padua Hills 1
Palisades Highlands 11
Palmdale 1592
Palms 334
Palos Verdes Estates 60
Palos Verdes Peninsula 1
Panorama City 1371
Paramount 1091
Park La Brea 47
Pasadena 1453
Pearblossom/Llano 9
Pellissier Village 7
Pico Rivera 1209
Pico-Union 1064
Playa Del Rey 11
Playa Vista 63
Pomona 2021
Porter Ranch 156
Quartz Hill 81
Rancho Dominguez 37
Rancho Palos Verdes 167
Rancho Park 39
Redondo Beach 283
Regent Square 16
Reseda 1132
Reseda Ranch 41
Reynier Village 23
Rolling Hills 3
Rolling Hills Estates 29
Roosevelt 3
Rosemead 343
Rosewood 11
Rosewood/East Gardena 8
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 43
Rowland Heights 339
San Dimas 219
San Fernando 356
San Gabriel 297
San Jose Hills 269
San Marino 33
San Pasqual 5
San Pedro 1299
Sand Canyon 1
Santa Catalina Island 4
Santa Clarita 1473
Santa Fe Springs 244
Santa Monica 482
Santa Monica Mountains 61
Saugus 8
Shadow Hills 24
Sherman Oaks 479
Sierra Madre 42
Signal Hill 122
Silver Lake 348
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 60
South El Monte 377
South Gate 2143
South Park 1034
South Pasadena 179
South San Gabriel 103
South Whittier 719
Southeast Antelope Valley 7
St Elmo Village 73
Stevenson Ranch 77
Studio City 142
Sun Valley 659
Sun Village 64
Sunland 251
Sunrise Village 19
Sycamore Square 1
Sylmar 1524
Tarzana 390
Temple City 292
Temple-Beaudry 651
Thai Town 76
Toluca Lake 42
Toluca Terrace 12
Toluca Woods 6
Torrance 710
Tujunga 206
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 8
University Hills 30
University Park 418
Val Verde 34
Valencia 16
Valinda 328
Valley Glen 263
Valley Village 323
Van Nuys 1385
Venice 125
Vermont Knolls 407
Vermont Square 186
Vermont Vista 944
Vernon 13
Vernon Central 1578
Victoria Park 105
View Heights 20
View Park/Windsor Hills 77
Walnut 134
Walnut Park 355
Watts 872
Wellington Square 56
West Adams 480
West Antelope Valley 3
West Carson 196
West Covina 1329
West Hills 259
West Hollywood 314
West LA 26
West Los Angeles 256
West Puente Valley 183
West Rancho Dominguez 14
West Vernon 1148
West Whittier/Los Nietos 443
Westchester 222
Westfield/Academy Hills 2
Westhills 4
Westlake 1497
Westlake Village 11
Westwood 164
White Fence Farms 24
Whittier 1034
Wholesale District 1544
Willowbrook 717
Wilmington 747
Wilshire Center 554
Winnetka 574
Wiseburn 53
Woodland Hills 383
Under Investigation: 3160


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Johnny Depp’s Libel Suit Airs Some Dirty Laundry

On the fourth day of testimony in Johnny Depp’s libel suit against U.K.’s The Sun, the actor again vehemently denied the newspaper’s 2018 claim that he beat ex-wife Amber Heard, though he admitted that he was less certain as to who, exactly, pooped in the couple’s bed at their Los Angeles penthouse.

While all parties in London’s High Court today agreed that someone, or something, defecated in Pitt and Heard’s marital bed after he showed up late to her 30th birthday celebration at the Eastern Columbia Building in DTLA, there are still multiple suspects in the case.

Depp contends that it was either Heard herself who left the offending mess, or else her friend, iO Tillet Wright, saying that author and activist “seemed the only one that would be crass enough to commit such an act.”

Defending The Sun, barrister Sasha Wass suggested that Boo, one of the couple’s Yorkies, was behind the soiling—citing the dog’s “problems with her toilet habits.”

The Pirates of the Caribbean star conceded that the culprit’s identity remains “a mystery,” but insisted that the feces “was not left by a three or four-pound dog.”

Heard has allegedly described the defecation as “just a harmless prank,” and Depp admitted he thought it was “hilarious” when he received pictures of the waste. “Not sure I’ve laughed that hard for years,” he wrote in a text. “At least the photos are hilarious.”

Depp, who joked about the incident at the time, calling Heard “Amber Turd” and referring to “Amber in the dumps,” told the court, “It was one of the most absurd, unexpected statements that I have ever witnessed in my life so, yes, initially I did laugh because it was so strange.”

The defecation debacle, Depp said, was “a fitting end” to the relationship.

In less amusing cross-examination testimony, Depp denied Wass’s accusations that he had thrown a champagne magnum and a phone at Heard, and had grabbed her hair and “pushed her to the ground” during the birthday argument.

The court also heard a phone message from Depp to Lady Gaga’s ex-fiance, Christian Carino, in which Depp threatens to maim Elon Musk, believing the Tesla billionaire had an affair with Heard.

“I’ll show him things he’s never seen before,” Depp allegedly said, “like the other side of his dick when I slice it off.”

Musk has said he was not involved with Heard while she was married.


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The Coroner Has Released Andres Guardado’s Autopsy, Defying Sheriff’s Hold Order

UPDATE: JULY 10, 2020 – In an unusual move, the Los Angeles County Coroner has chosen to defy a “security hold” placed on the autopsy of Andres Guardado. The hold was ordered by the Sheriff’s Department.

While the Medical Examiner-Coroner works closely with law enforcement, the department is independent. Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas released a statement indicating that he did not believe that the LASD hold was in the best interest of justice in this case.

“After careful thought and deliberation, I am releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado Pineda. In doing so, I have given careful consideration to the major variables in this case–supporting the administration of justice, as well as the public’s right to know,” he wrote. “I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive ideals. Both are important, particularly amid the ongoing national discussion about race, policing and civil rights. I believe that government can do its part by being more timely and more transparent in sharing information that the public demands and has a right to see.”

Guardado’s death was a homicide, he rules.

Details of his report appear similar to the findings of an initial report released by Guardado’s family earlier this week. It appears the 18-year-old was shot multiple times by a sheriff’s deputy, and was pronounced dead at 6:01 p.m. on June 18. A toxicology report shows no evidence of drugs or alcohol.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times that he finds it “deeply troubling” that the LASD has yet to send documents about the investigation to the Office of the Inspector General.

“I commend the Coroner for upholding the autonomy and integrity of his office by releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado, despite attempts to block its release,” Ridley-Thomas stated. “The community deserves to know the facts. This is a matter of public interest and public trust.”


UPDATE: JULY 8, 2020 – Initial findings from an independent autopsy conclude that 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot in the back five times, according to attorneys representing his family. The victim’s family requested the independent autopsy after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department placed an indefinite “security hold” on the coroner’s official report.

The autopsy found evidence of a sixth, superficial wound, a graze to the forearm, with a forward trajectory, the Los Angeles Times reports. Forensic toxicology reports showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol.

Guardado’s family attorneys assert that the report supports their understanding that the shooting was “unjustified police violence against an innocent young man.”

The deputy who shot Guardado has been identified as Miguel Vega. Vega was accompanied by a second deputy, Chris Hernandez, who is believed not to have fired. Attorneys for Vega and Hernandez have told the Times that the June 18 shooting was justified, but no official explanation for what happened or what action by Guardado might have justified the use of force has been provided.


JUNE 23, 2020 – Many questions remain unanswered in the fatal shooting of Andres Guardado at the hands of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officer. The department has not released an official statement explaining the deputy’s use of deadly force in the incident, and now the LASD has placed a “security hold” on a coroner’s autopsy, which was expected to be conducted on Monday.

What is known so far is that 18-year-old Guardado was killed at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, while working as a security guard outside an auto body shop in Gardena. As a security guard, Guardado was armed but, the Los Angeles Times reports, even the deputies involved “don’t believe” he ever fired the weapon. It seems that Guardado was fleeing from the officers when they pursued him on foot, chased him between two buildings, and then fired several shots.

“We had a security guard that was out front, because we had just had certain issues with people tagging and stuff like that,” Andrew Heney, owner of the Freeway Auto Body Shop told CBS Los Angeles. “And then the police came up, and they pulled their guns on him and he ran because he was scared, and they shot and killed him. He’s got a clean background and everything. There’s no reason.”

Protests over the weekend, including Sunday’s large rally outside the LASD station in Compton, have brought additional attention to the case.

“People are hurting and they are tired of excuses,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown wrote in a statement. “I strongly urge the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to address this incident immediately and provide answers for the family and our community.”

On Monday, the California Attorney General’s office received a formal request from Sheriff Alex Villanueva to monitor the investigation, which will continue to be conducted by LASD staff.

Not everyone is satisfied with that arrangement. Leaders including Congresswomen Nanette Barragán and Maxine Waters and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas are among the voices calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Sheriff Villanueva tweeted that he is “committed to transparency” in regard to the case. Nonetheless, his office requested the “security hold” on the autopsy, which blocks the release of any information about coroner’s findings, and would not tell reporters why the hold was requested or how long it would be in place.

The Times notes that the use of holds on autopsy results is “not uncommon” in high-profile police shooting cases. When pressed for details, an LASD spokesperson would only tell the paper that “investigators wish to maintain the integrity of the investigation and premature release of information could jeopardize the case.”


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Inside Veterans Row, the Tent City That’s Sprung Up Outside the VA

The row of 30-some tents stretching down San Vicente Boulevard in front of the West L.A. Veterans Administration campus just off the 405 Freeway doesn’t resemble many other Los Angeles encampments. The tents are huge and the space around them is kept pristine by their occupants. Then, there are the American flags adorning all the tents.

This is Veterans Row, and its residents are angry.

“All of that land is just sitting there,” says Reginald Smith, a Marine Corps veteran who gestures to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ West L.A. property sitting just behind an imposing black iron fence. Meanwhile, Smith says, “every day, 22 veterans die because of homelessness, mental health issues. The costs are big.”

Veterans Row started with a donation of tents to the West L.A. VA by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch. Due to the size of the tents, VA officials had rejected the donations, says Rob Reynolds, a formerly homeless veteran who now advocates on behalf of other veterans struggling with housing issues. Veterans were able to receive the tents directly after the donation was rejected.

“We call it Veterans Row to get rid of the Skid Row stigma,” Reynolds says. “It just goes to show that if they were given the tools in the first place—a place to stay, somewhere to get stable, dumpsters, all that—they can clean up and take care of themselves.”

The tents offer the veterans a semblance of home, while also reminding the public about their ongoing fight with the Veterans Administration behind them. Inside, the tents contain couches, book shelves, potted plants, and cots. Residents are assigned to a rotating list of tasks, including sweeping, taking out the trash, and keeping watch. They even adhere to a chain of command. “They’re running it like a patrol base in Iraq,” says Reynolds, himself an Iraq War veteran.

In response to a request for comment, a VA spokesperson pointed to the newly sanctioned tent city on the West L.A. campus, which was approved in April amid the pandemic. “This is the first time in the VA’s history where we have had this opportunity for Homeless Veterans to fall under the Care, Treatment, Rehabilitation Services,” chief of communications Steve Ruh said. The American Legion has referred to the sanctioned tent city on the VA’s grounds as an “internment camp.” 

The 388-acre parcel of land, located between the affluent communities of Brentwood and Westwood, has long been a locus of controversy. The expansive campus came into public possession after California landowner and socialite Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker deeded it to the federal government as a home for disabled soldiers in 1887.

“This was a fully functional city within the county of Los Angeles,” Carolina Winston Barrie, the great-great-niece of de Baker, said in a 2012 interview with NPR. “It had everything—a post office, the trolley station.” She noted that there were “150 acres under cultivation. Orange trees all over the place. You can’t see an orange tree anymore.”

Over the decades, the site fell into neglect while VA officials opened up the land to commercial and non-profit use. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the VA had misused the area by allowing non-veteran related tenants on the land, including the laundry facility for Marriott Hotels, production set storage for 20th Century Fox, and a local soccer club. Brentwood School, a $40,000-a-year K-12 private school, was faulted for running a 20-acre athletic complex on the property.

These problems persisted years later. A 2018 federal audit found that more than 60 percent of the campus’s land-use agreements were illegal or improper, citing a dog park, Red Cross offices, a Shakespeare festival, and a parrot sanctuary. That same year, an operator of a parking lot located on the property pleaded guilty to bribing a VA official with nearly $300,000 as he pocketed $11 million in unreported revenues.

“A lot of what’s going on here ties right into the pay-for-play corruption that you see going on at L.A. City Hall,” says Reynolds, drawing a connection to the ongoing FBI corruption probe that has alleged improper ties between L.A. City government officials and real estate developers.

Veterans face homelessness at a disproportionately high rate compared to the general population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, but they’ve also seen the biggest boost in local, state, and federal funding over the past decade. Los Angeles has seen a 60 percent decrease in homelessness among veterans from 2009 to present. Still, 3,902 homeless veterans were reported in the 2020 Homeless Count.

Reynolds contends that the VA is still not doing enough to bring in the vets who struggle to get off the streets. This leaves him and the others on Veterans Row to do outreach and help others get the help they need.

“It’s forcing the VA’s hand to do its job, because now that we’re bringing them here and passing them the paperwork, you don’t have a choice, you have to start doing something,” he says. “And it’s about time, because this is just ridiculous that it went on this long.”


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This Subversive Sci-Fi Opera Explores the Idea of Being Displaced from Planet Earth

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In the Vibration Group, a coalition of people displaced from Earth are living in space, choosing to nurture their community on the ship instead of forging a colony on another planet. The experimental opera from L.A.-based composer and multidisciplinary artist Anna Luisa Petrisko is a sci-fi odyssey that explores subjects like migration, climate change, and chosen families while flipping the colonial narratives so popular in the genre. All this is set to the sound of modern electronic music, at times drawing from styles like synthpop and house.

“As a practice, I’m always world-building,” says Petrisko on a recent video call. “The world is multimedia. There’s sound, there’s visual, there’s tactile things.”

The characters live by the motto “Psycho Spiritual Body” and wear clothing covered in a print of Petrisko’s own design that riffs on the indigenous tattoos of the Philippines, a nod to her own Filipino heritage. The music is reflective of Petrisko’s style as a solo artist and producer. Her most recent full-length, Green, was released in 2018.

“When I make music, it doesn’t feel like it’s just an album. It almost feels like I can’t make an album without it being a concept album,” she says. “The operas spring out from there.”

Still, she says, there’s a bit of subversiveness in calling her work opera. “I will fully admit that I don’t study opera, high-brow, canonized opera. I don’t study it,” says Petrisko. “I feel like it is a bit cheeky and a bit bold for me to say that I make operas, and it’s also a nice gesture of flipping a high-brow art form.”

The precursor to the Vibration Group is Petrisko’s 2016 opera Body Ship, a collaboration with soprano and sound artist Micaela Tobin (also known as White Boy Scream). “It was a Filipino, sci-fi narrative about sisters who were meditating on colonialism and they took the path of Ferdinand Magellan, the Spanish explorer who is credited with discovering the Philippine islands,” Petrisko explains.

After that experience, she wanted to go bigger. The concept for the Vibration Group came “on the fly” while Petrisko was applying for grants. Once one was secured, the details started to come together and some of that was influenced by the news of the day. “At the time, we saw the spaceship as a metaphor for the migrant caravan, people who are forced to leave their home and find a new home,” she says.

But, the themes within the Vibration Group connect to more than one news event. They’re reflective of both the history and the future of many humans. “It can be about a lot of different people’s stories,” says Petrisko.

Petrisko also wanted to “unpack” the colonization trope in science fiction, citing authors like Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson as predecessors for this practice.

“It’s important for us, in the narrative, that we’re not settlers,” says Petrisko. “We’ve been displaced. We don’t want to displace others. The opera takes place in this suspended space where we had to leave our homes, we don’t know where we’re going to go and we’re stuck.”

When the Vibration Group premiered at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions last November, it was as an experiential event. Guests entered through a plant-filled, interactive installation and had the chance to try “Earthness: The Vibration Group Earthing Consciousness Spa,” a virtual reality experience designed by collaboration Ana Carolina Estarita Guerrero and Tonia B******.

On July 11 at 7 p.m., Starcast with Vibration Group will premiere as a special online event for LACMA members and their guests. It’s a new work designed with social distancing in mind and is part of the Vibration Group universe. The performance will include some music from the opera, which is set for an album release on July 10. However, Petrisko says that it’s more of a “world-building and narrative-building” piece.

“We have a lot of time on our hands—kind of like right now, kind of like when you’re living in a pandemic,” says Petrisko of the characters in the Vibration Group. “Each character has developed their own rituals or research that they’re doing.”

The LACMA performance will also explore some of the trauma that the members of the Vibration Group have experienced and the healing exercises that they developed in response.

“I think that what’s valuable about this performance is that we’re connecting it to things that are happening on Earth right now—the trauma that people are experiencing with police brutality and the pandemic and uprisings for black lives and the uprisings for indigenous lives,” says Petrisko. “We as a group, want to offer some of the ways that we dealt with these situations and developed methods for healing and coexisting while in isolation.”


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Morning Brief: Don’t Expect Bars or Indoor Dining to Return in Anytime Soon

» Bars and indoor dining won’t be returning any time soon. As coronavirus cases surge, eating and drinking indoors are seen as too risky.  [Los Angeles Times]

» Downtown Disney reopened on Thursday and a pandemic couldn’t deter some Disney-lovers from showing up. Some arrived Wednesday and waited overnight to be among the first to explore the reopened shopping complex. [KTLA]

» The Lucas Museum has appointed Pilar Tompkins Rivas, formerly of the Vincent Price Art Museum, as chief curator. Five other prominent roles were also filled by female candidates, rare in the male-dominated museum world. [The Los Angeles Times]

» JetBlue is saying bye-bye to Long Beach. The low-cost carrier will shift those flight operations to LAX. [Daily Breeze]

» Protestors gathered outside Los Angeles Air Force Base to demand answers in the case of Vanessa Guillen. Guillen’s family hopes her horrifying death will raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment of women in the military.  [L.A. Taco]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» Five Suspects Have Been Arrested in Connection with the Killing of Rapper Pop Smoke Authorities suspect it may have been a robbery gone bad, with thieves attracted by social media posts

» ‘Glee’ Actress Naya Rivera Is Now Presumed Dead After Going Missing at Lake Piru Authorities have announced a formal shift from ”search-and-rescue” to a ”recovery” mission

» How L.A.’s Gymgoers Are Weighing the Pandemic Risk—and How Gyms Are Keeping Them Safe A rising COVID-19 case count and outbreak scares haven’t kept people away from the city’s reopened gyms


ONE MORE THING

 

palm springs

The Best Things to Stream This Weekend

Our picks this week include Andy Samberg’s new indie-sci-fi-rom-com Palm Springs, haunted house terror in Relic, Tom Hanks being very Tom Hanks-y in Greyhound, and more.

 [FULL STORY]


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Things to Do (Inside and Outside) in L.A. This Weekend

This summer is a weird one. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are getting worse, not better, and any early-pandemic hopes that we might be celebrating with friends and family by now have long ago been dashed. Nonetheless, it’s the weekend, and it’s best spent in the company of household-sharing loved ones, distancing out in nature, or enjoying some great entertainment at home. Here are our picks for things to do this weekend. Have fun, but be safe.


Digital Dance DTLA

Fridays through September 4

The Music Center’s series of weekly dance lessons will look a little different this year, but it’s sure to be just as much fun. No more braving DTLA traffic on a Friday evening to shake your buns—this year you can party right in your living room via the Music Center’s YouTube account. The series kicks off with Bollywood dance on July 10 and wraps up with Samba on September 4. Click here for everything in between.

Artist Conversation with Gajin Fujita and and Matt Wedel

Friday, July 10

Hosted by L.A. Louver and moderated by its director, Elizabeth East, artists Gajin Fujita and Matt Wedel sit down to discuss the connection between their aesthetics and their shared experiences as artists.

Tom of Finland Foundation Virtual Drawing Session 

Sunday, July 12

Hone your hunky-man drawing skills with this virtual drawing session from the Tom of Finland Foundation. Live models pose for several hours while ticket-holders sketch from afar.

Vineland Drive-In

Ongoing

Drive-in movie theaters are currently generating 90 percent of box office revenue in the COVID era. There are some new movies to check out this weekend at Vineland in City of Industry, including highly anticipated horror Relic, the Andy Samberg time-loop farce Palm Springs, and more.

Tribeca Drive-In

Through July 26

Tribeca Drive-In rolls on this weekend with several live comedy shows, a screening of Spy Kids, and more (note: several screenings are already sold out, but now’s the time to plan ahead for future weekends!)

“The Sky Beneath Our Feet” at Descanso Gardens

Through September 3

Descanso Gardens is offering a special experience for those who stop by for a stroll. Five times each day, Pete Wyer’s musical composition “The Sky Beneath Our Feet” will play from 72 speakers sited among the garden’s coast live oak tree grove which inspired the work.

“Def Jam: Through the Lens”

Ongoing

Ever wonder how the most iconic images in hip hop history came to be? Iconic record label Def Jam has just dropped the first two episodes in a three-part series of mini-documentaries, going behind the camera with era-defining photographers. RIYL 2019’s “Contact High” at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Biking in Marina del Rey

Ongoing

Beaches are closed to avoid the type of coronavirus exposure that happened over Memorial Day, but if you really want to catch a glimpse of the water, consider a ride down Marina del Rey’s paved bike path. Because it’s not along beach sand, officials say it will be allowed to stay open this weekend–just be sure to wear your mask and recreate responsibly!

Stream away …

Ongoing

It feels like we’re living through one interminable Monday under this global house arrest, but it technically is the weekend. So why not take a break from the news and the glitchy Zoom meetings and watch something fun? Check out what we have in this week’s roundup of streaming recommendations because sometimes the best things to do are the most low-effort of all.

Looking for even more things to watch, eat, and do during the COVID-19 outbreak? Check out our Inside Guide.


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L.A. Sheriff’s Department Rules Robert Fuller’s Death a Suicide

UPDATE: JULY 9, 2020, 5:08 P.M. – Additional information released about the investigation continues to fill in the picture of Robert Fuller’s life and death. Detectives have released their full report which looks more deeply into Fuller’s history of issues with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

According to the Los Angeles TimesLASD report shows that Fuller was hospitalized due to “auditory hallucinations” and saying he “wanted to put a gun to his head” in January of 2017. In 2019, he was hospitalized twice, once due to “hearing voices telling him to kill himself.” It appears that at some point Fuller moved to Nevada, finding himself periodically staying at a shelter for homeless youth.

An attorney for the Fuller family says they will release their own response to the findings today. The family has been working with their own private investigator and requested an independent autopsy in parallel to the LASD investigation. Investigators noted that the family had been cooperating with the investigation and had shared significant information that had helped in reaching the determinations.


UPDATE: JULY 9, 2020, 1:30 P.M. – The Los Angeles Sheriff’s department has officially ruled the death of Robert Fuller to be a suicide, after first making a quick announcement of that assumption, then stating they were going to “roll back” the initial assessment.

CBS Los Angeles reports that the department claims to have based the determination both on an autopsy by the county medical examiner and additional evidence. The LASD claims that they found that Fuller’s EBT card was used to purchase a rope similar to the one from which he was found hanging, and that Fuller had previously expressed suicidal thoughts in some context.

The LASD’s handling of the case has come under scrutiny from the public, and both the FBI Civil Rights Division and the California Attorney General’s office felt it appropriate to step in to monitor the investigation.


JUNE 15, 2020 – In the last two weeks, two Black men have been found dead, hung from trees outside civic buildings in Southern California towns just miles from one another. Malcolm Harsch was discovered on May 31 in Victorville and, on June 10, Robert Fuller was found hanging outside City Hall in the Los Angeles County suburb of Palmdale. Initially, authorities suggested that both were likely suicides, but after days of public demands for a more intensive investigation, those early statements have been walked back.

Hundreds of protesters have gathered daily in the park where Fuller’s body was found. Close family members have addressed the assembly, sharing their shock and skepticism that the death was a suicide.

“We want to find out the truth of what really happened. Everything that they’ve been telling us has not been right,” Diamond Alexander, Fuller’s sister, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. “My brother was not suicidal. My brother was a survivor.”

Jonathan Lucas, the chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, told reporters at a Monday press briefing that Fuller’s death was labeled a possible suicide because no indications of homicide were immediately obvious at the scene. But now he now “felt it prudent to roll that back” and continue the investigation.

“Initially, there wasn’t any evidence or information that lead us to believe that there was anything other than a suicide,” he said. “But that changed, or, I should say, we felt better that we should look into it a little bit more deeply and carefully, just considering all the circumstances at play.”

Results from an autopsy and toxicology screening have not yet been released. Investigators did confirm that no chair or stool—the type of item one might stand on to attach a noose to a high tree branch when hanging oneself—was found at the scene.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is handling the investigation into Fuller’s death, which will now also be monitored by the California Attorney General’s office and the FBI Civil Rights division.

“We’re taking all the necessary steps to make sure we’re transparent and we’re cross-referencing all our activities, all our investigative efforts, with both the Attorney General’s office and the FBI,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the briefing.

Investigators from the department’s homicide division noted that their team would continue looking for information about Fuller’s death. Next steps for the investigation include more extensive conversations with Fuller’s family members and others who may have insight into his final days. They also mentioned plans to meet with a case worker from the county’s Department of Public Social Services who, they stated, at some point worked with Fuller, though they would not confirm what program that person may have met with Fuller about.

As of yet, they stated, they have not been in communication with their counterparts in San Bernardino, who are investigating Harsch’s death there, regarding any possible connection between the two hangings.

No possible motive for Fuller’s death has been established but, for some, the sight of a Black man hanging from a tree in a public square has reminded them of the Antelope Valley’s very active struggle with neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity, even within the Sheriff’s Department. The issue in the area is so bad that, in late 2019, Lancaster-Palmdale appeared on a list of “America’s most miserable cities” specifically citing the neo-Nazi gangsThe New Yorker dedicated a lengthy feature to chronicling the neo-Nazis and skinheads of the Antelope Valley.

In a lawsuit following the 2011 death of Darrell Logan Jr., an unarmed man shot 11 times by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, in Palmdale, his family brought forth evidence of a “neo-Nazi cop gang” within the department known as the Vikings, another group known as the Regulators, and “other gang-type cliques” of officers.

When a reporter at Monday’s briefing asked Villanueva if his department might be investigating any connection between Fuller’s death and white supremacist groups, law enforcement or civilian, he did not provide a direct answer. He did, however, bring up a 2015 settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the LASD stemming from deputy misconduct, excessive use of force, and housing discrimination, based out of the Lancaster and Palmdale stations.

“That happened before I took office as sheriff,” he noted. “I think the reforms have been put in place, and they’re working, to date.”

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department will host an online “community conversation” at which Palmdale and Lancaster residents will have an opportunity to raise their concerns about the investigation and raise other issues with policing in the Antelope Valley.


RELATED: In a Dramatic Reversal, the L.A. City Budget Will Contain No New Funds for Police


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