by Olu Alemoru
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles WAVE
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INGLEWOOD (NNPA) — An extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday, July 22, saw widespread community anger over the police shooting death of Black postal worker Kevin Wicks by Inglewood Police Officer Brian Ragan, who was already under investigation in connection with the shooting death of Michael Byoune two months ago.
All regular council business was deferred until Wednesday morning as members of Wicks’ family, outraged residents, community activists, media and a phalanx of Inglewood police officers crowded into the ninth floor city council chambers.
The crush of people trying to get in was initially so great that officials opened a second meeting room on a lower floor to accommodate the overflow.
Back from her vacation, Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks stood grim-faced for more than two hours as a number of speakers took to the podium and called for her resignation.
Those calling for her resignation included Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE and Min. Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. State Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas also observed the proceedings.
Ali, a spokesperson for the family, accused Seabrooks of “spitting in the face of Inglewood residents” by not making an immediate statement on the latest tragedy.
“We are demanding that the chief offer her resignation,” Ali said. “It’s not her fault that she was on vacation, but it was her fault that she did not cut that vacation short and make some kind of comment on another murder of an Inglewood citizen by one of her officers.
“Kevin Wicks was shot unnecessarily and there is a crisis [of confidence] in the Inglewood Police Department. They need to be held more accountable and there needs to be a sense of urgency.”
Ali repeated a call he made at a recent City Council meeting, for an elected civilian police review board, as well as a federal civil rights investigation into the department.
Meanwhile, Muhammad recalled a community meeting held with Seabrooks after the Byoune incident, where she promised that the officer in question would be placed on administrative leave until the investigation was complete.
“Someone betrayed us,” he said. “How did that man get back on the streets? Heads need to roll.”
Family members, including Kenya Carter, Wicks’ girlfriend and mother of his two children, grandmother Dorothy Nelson and Kenya’s father and brother, Fred Carter and Fred Carter Jr., followed Ali to the podium.
“We want to see justice served,” Kenya Carter said. “We need the truth. Two more children are now without their father. Kevin was a good guy, a family man, a good father to his daughters.”
Wicks, 38, was shot and killed on the morning of July 21 after police responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment in the 100 block of North Hillcrest Boulevard.
According to Capt. Eve Irvine, commanding officer of the department’s detective bureau, Ragan was one of four officers to arrive at the address following a domestic disturbance call.
Irvine said that about 12:20 a.m., officers knocked on the front door of the apartment, verbally identified themselves as police and Wicks opened the door.
“At one point, the officers could not see Mr. Wicks’ hand,” she said. “They said, ‘We need to see your hand.’ At this point, Mr. Wicks suddenly raised a handgun.”
Irvine said Ragan fired in self-defense, but did not know how many times he fired his weapon. Wicks, who was alone in the apartment, was taken to the hospital, where he died, police said.
However, that version was contradicted by sources close to the family.
“Kevin was a law-abiding citizen fearful for his safety,” Ali said. “According to family and neighbors he heard banging at his door and assumed someone was trying to break in. There was a comment in the AP story where an officer said we can’t see your hands and he complied. But one of the officers seeing the gun immediately fired.”
The gun was registered to Wicks, a 19-year employee of the U.S. Postal Service who was described by friends as a nice man who had no trouble with the police.
Ragan and Officer Roman Fernandez had previously been placed on administrative leave after the May 11 shooting of Michael Byoune, 19, Larry White, also 19 and Chris Larkin, 21. Byoune died from his wounds. The three were in a car leaving a fast-food restaurant in Inglewood when police officers, responding to hearing gunshots, arrived on the scene. It was later discovered that neither Byoune, White or Larkin was armed.
“I’m horrified to think that two and half months after the Byoune tragedy the same officer is back on the streets and involved in another questionable shooting,” said attorney Carl Douglas, who has filed a $25 million lawsuit on behalf of Byoune’s family. “Inglewood officers seem to be exercising deadly force on far too many occasions. There were four officers present, but only one felt threatened enough to fire his weapon.”