As reaction comes in from the shooting of Inglewood resident Kevin Wicks on the morning of July 21, residents in the quiet Hillcrest neighborhood are struggling to make sense of what happened.
Inglewood police claimed they were following up a domestic disturbance call when they arrived at 124 N. Hillcrest Blvd. at around 12:30 a.m. Minutes later, Wicks, who was alone in the house, was shot and later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Tony Williams, a 12-year resident of the complex at 124 N. Hillcrest Blvd., said Tuesday morning that he heard three shots at some point between 12:30 and 1 a.m. When he saw officers running around the premises, he assumed that it was something different than a police shooting.
“It’s not a common occurrence around here,” said Williams, “This is a quiet and mostly elderly building,”
Williams said that he only knew Wicks in passing and described him as a “pretty cool guy” who kept to himself. He added that Wicks had only been living there approximately six months and lived alone with few, if any visitors
Another neighbor who lives in the complex and requested anonymity, prefaced her story by saying that she had heard Wicks come home from his job earlier in the night.
“I usually hear him when he returns home from work at 12:00 a.m. and walks up the stairs because he is heavy-footed,” she said.
Moments after hearing his arrival on Monday, she heard several more footsteps going up the stairs and seconds later she heard a loud thump from her ceiling, which turned out to be Wicks falling the floor mortally wounded.
The eight-year resident, who did not hear any gunfire, said that this was the first incident she had witnessed at the building. The image of seeing Wicks’ body was a shock that would take her time to recover from.
Tricia Hamilton, who lives directly across from the building, said that she was in bed when she heard the shots and saw the police. Hamilton has lived in the area for two years and echoed the sentiments of Monday’s incident being “out of the ordinary.”
“This street is relatively pretty quiet so that was a bit out of the ordinary since I’ve been here,” said Hamilton.
After returning from a late-night shift at a local post office, Wicks was awakened by four police officers that knocked on his door. He came with his gun and while reports differ on what happened next, the end result was Wicks being shot dead by Inglewood Police Department officer Brian Ragan.
Reports state that Ragan, who is African-American, fired on Wicks in self-defense after he raised his gun at the officers.
A 5-1/2 year veteran of the department, Ragan was already under investigation for his role in a similar shooting on May 11 in Inglewood that involved him and another officer at a Rally’s fast food stand on Manchester Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd.
The officers shot at three men in a vehicle, believing they were armed, and 19-year-old Michael Byoune died from his injuries. The men were found to be unarmed and the families have filed a $25 million lawsuit against the city and IPD.
Ragan was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident but returned to work after being cleared by a psychologist. He is currently back on paid leave.
“It’s very disturbing to know he was back out on the streets,” Williams said.
The incident also comes barely a month after a 25-year-old man, Brandon Baines, accused IPD, along with officers from the California Highway Patrol, of police misconduct while he was detained outside his apartment.
Baines suffered a chipped tooth and brief paralysis after being tased twice and thrown to the pavement by officers.
At Inglewood City Hall on Tuesday evening, community activists and residents joined the family decrying the actions of the policemen.
However, the presence of some activists like Najee Ali have led some to believe their actions are counterproductive to what rallies like this should focus on according to Eric Lee, the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.
“When you put the focus solely on just the victim, [the authorities] are going to be able to criminalize the victim which then seeks to justify the abuse,” Lee said.
Lee suggested that rallies should primarily call attention to the pattern of abuse by police officers in the Black community as well as lack of regulation
“There’s a double tragedy in administering justice to police abuse or policeman who abuse under authority as well as the continual murder of our children in L.A. County.”
But for Wicks’ family and the Inglewood community, the latest instance of alleged police misconduct has further increased concern that the hot summer might not cool off tensions between them and the police department.