|Marcus Griffin organized a sign-making project to commemorate the life of Marcus Smith and to demand justice from his killers.
Photo by Francis Taylor for Sentinel
Four members of the Inglewood Police Department, which is already under investigation for fatal shootings, were placed on administrative leave this as two probes were under way into the shooting death of a suspect at the site of a birthday party May 17.
The incident, which also left an officer wounded, possibly by friendly fire, began about 12:45 a.m. Sunday when officers were sent to a party in the 800 block of Osage Avenue in response to reports of a fight, according to the Inglewood Police Department.
Friends, family members, and other witnesses to the recent May 17 Inglewood Police shooting of 31-year-old Marcus Smith of Compton, reported a contrasting view from the police in yet another senseless murder of an African American by the department.
During the early morning last Sunday at a Mardi Gras-style party on South Osage Avenue in Inglewood, Smith was fatally shot by members of Inglewood Police Department.
Initially the police department defending the shooting stating that Smith pointed and fired a loading semi-automatic weapon, but family and others witnessed conted that Smith had no weapon and did not pose any danger to the law enforcement officers.
Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and spokespersons for the department issued a statement that Smith, was armed with a handgun.
They said the officers were responding to numerous calls about a fight that was underway and reportedly responded with their guns drawn and flashlights in-hand to illuminate the rear of the darkened-apartment compound that was over 100 feet from the sidewalk.
Family members reported that their celebration was typical of the types of gatherings that they enjoyed on numerous occasions in the past and that Smith, who did not own a gun and would have had no reason to bring one to a family party.
Family members aid that Smith was most likely to have been a peace maker if matters got out of control, but instead they are now mourning him.
Most witnesses agreed that no fights or other loud and disruptive arguments occurred during festivities, and the enclosed area that had been set-up for the partygoers which made it impossible for anyone to see police officers or others approaching the second story apartment.
“When Marcus was leaving the party and walking down the stairs,” one family member explained. “He stumbled and threw his hands in the air to balance himself. I did not hear any police warnings or other police commands. The next thing I heard were gunshots and Marcus was motionless.”
Long-time community activist Morris Griffin, better known as “Big Money Griff”, is a resident of the apartment complex and witnessed the shooting.
He said. “I was standing only a few feet away from Marcus when he came down the stairs and he was not carrying a gun.”
“What I saw was a small, nervous Asian Police Officer who appeared to lack confidence and experience. He was a trigger-happy, coffee drinking police officer who did not give any command and caused contagious fire among his fellow officers.”
“All I heard,” Griffin reported, “were the words, police, gun, and then pow, pow, pow,pow, pow, pow, pow, pow..”
“Marcus had his hands in the air.” Griffin continued. “He had no visible weapon and presented no visible threat to the police officers, himself or others.” His account of the incidents leading up to the murder of the victim was bolstered by remarks from others who knew the victim as a friend, family member, loving father and responsible adult.
“My dad is not that stupid to pull a gun in front of the police.” Smith’s 11-year-old daughter Marqia said. “He would be the one to approach the police politely if there was trouble at the party.”
Charisma Bailey, girlfriend of the birthday honoree, said that she and several other female witnesses were roughed up by the police officers as they tried to hold and comfort Smith after he had been shot. She displayed a gash on her lip and bruises on her back and shoulder.
“Marcus was leaving the party.” She said. “He did not have a gun but had his hands up as he was going down the stairs. The police came around the corner with flashlights and guns, gave no commands and started shooting.”
“A female officer grabbed me while I was trying to comfort Marcus and others pushed and kicked me and referred to me as a bitch and slammed me against the wall while I was trying to hold him.” She continued.
Family members and neighbors were miffed about the behavior of the officers at the scene who did not appear concerned about the fact that a homicide occurred.
“They were laughing and talking about coffee and donuts.” one observer noted.
Another observation was that police spokespersons have attempted to characterize Smith and his family as gang members, and refused to document many of their statements at the crime scene.
“Marcus was a happy-go-lucky person who was reared without a father,” one of his relatives said, “He wanted to make sure that he was there for his three daughters and he worked very hard to provide for them.”
“The police are lying and are trying to destroy his character because he was shot in the back,” the witness continued. “He did not own a gun and, except for a few automobile-related citations, has not been to jail or prison and does not have a police record.”
Earlier this week, Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, offered a prayer and presided over a candlelight vigil.
When Seabrooks was hired away from the Santa Monica Police Department to become the first Black and female to head the troubled Inglewood Police Department, which had been dazed by a series of police-involved sex scandals and the internationally-covered Donovan Jackson beating that occurred in July 2002. City Council members boasted about their selection and citizens looked forward to the leadership she was expected to provide.
She terminated the rogue police officers and closed-down the massage parlors and tanning salons that flourished throughout the city that had been the site of some of the police misconduct.
At this time, however, Seabrooks is presiding over a police department who, since 2003, has killed 12 people, six of them unarmed, according to law enforcement records reviewed by a local news publication.
A partial list includes Michael Byoune, who was killed when IPD officers fired into a vehicle mistakenly-assumed to have been involved in a drive-by shooting. The driver, Larry White was wounded.
Eddie Franco, a 50-year-old homeless man, was shot 50 times when he reportedly displayed a toy gun and Kevin Hicks, a 38 year-old postal worker was shot through his front door when IPD officers responded to a call at the wrong address.
The only IPD representative present at the candlelight vigil was Adrianne Sears, Chairwoman of the Inglewood Citizen’s Police Commission. Sears offered her personal condolences to the family members, explained the extensive investigative process that is already underway, and provided citizen complaint forms to those who believe that a complaint is warranted.
Recent Inglewood Citizen Police Academy Graduate, Stephan Brooks, was also matriculating among the mourners and wanted to offer a balanced remark in favor of the police officers.
“The Inglewood Citizen’s Police Academy is a community relations activity sponsored by the police department. For citizens, it is a volunteer program that exposes them to the operations of the Inglewood Police Department.” Brooks explained. “We attended classes over a several week period conducted by senior officers and after a thorough review of police operations, complete a ‘ride-along’ in an IPD squad car. Upon completion, we are qualified and encouraged to serve as police department volunteers.”
“Now that I have observed first-hand how police officers do their job, I understand that they often do not know what they are walking into.” He explained. “It can be a very stressful encounter that is probably best handled by a seasoned and professional officer that is familiar with the community and its residents.”
Brooks was unable to offer any explanation about why any non-Black police officer or group of officers, would shoot an unarmed Black man 20 times.