“We had planned to start our family this year. But now, instead of picking out baby cribs, I had to pick out a casket…” JANELL DUNN
WHERE’S THE OUTRAGE regarding mail carrier, Anthony “Tony” Dunn, who died after having his legs severed by an unlicensed driver right here in Boyle Heights?
The national clamor for justice relative to the Trayvon Martin killing has all but silenced the tragedy that occurred with the killing of Anthony Earl Dunn II, a 31-year-old mail carrier. His killing prompted a news conference in front of the Sentinel last Tuesday that highlighted parallels with both killings: they were both killed and no one has been held accountable.
Sentinel’s executive publisher, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. along with a group of community leaders and organizations voice the community’s concern, “… on how the justice system devalues Black life.” Among the speakers who echoed the same sentiments were Dr. Cecil Murray (USC professor); Leon Jenkins (NAACP); Charisse Bremond (Brotherhood Crusade); Rev. Eric Lee (SCLC); Tony Muhammad (Nation of Islam); and rapper YoYo.
Though the press conference was called ostensibly in support of Trayvon Martin, Bakewell said, “What happened here in L.A. with Anthony Dunn is happening all over the country, and in solidarity with Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, (who are in Florida) we want to highlight this national tragedy: the killing of our children.” Picking up a child, he said, “This is who we are fighting for; so that this young child would have a chance to grow up.”
Dunn was married and lived with his wife, Janell, in Lawndale. Last February 28, he was delivering mail in East L.A., standing behind his parked postal truck, when he was struck by a van, driven by Felipe Soto. That action pinned his legs between his postal truck and the van, severing his legs from his body.
When the emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene, they found Dunn in one location and his legs in another. The Los Angeles Fire Department took the body and the legs to L.A. County USC Medical Center. Dunn died the following day, less than 24 hours after the tragedy.
According to the official Traffic Collision Report ([TCR] or police report) dated 2-28-12, the incident occurred during daylight hours; the day was clear; the road surface was dry; and there were no unusual roadway conditions. It further stated that the driver had not been drinking. However, one of the investigating officers also stated in the report, ” … I formed the opinion that … Because of the lack of evidence of intoxication, I did not administer the SFST to P-1 (Soto).” [SFST stands for Standard Field Sobriety Test].
The TCR also stated that a request for filing against the driver of the vehicle that hit Dunn was for Vehicle Code violations as an unlicensed driver and for having no insurance. And an additional cause cited was for violation of Vehicle Code Section 21658(a): Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, the following rules apply:
(a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.
Soto’s vehicle was impounded. But nowhere in the report did it state that he was taken into custody or at least detained for further investigation. It appeared that after causing such a gruesome accident that severed a man’s legs – in addition to driving without a valid license and having no insurance – Soto would have at least been detained. But HE WAS RELEASED.
Sources told the Sentinel, that the case was referred to the district attorney, and he declined to file charges against Soto. It was referred to the city attorney and as of this writing, the Sentinel has learned that the charges filed against Soto include one MISDEMEANOR count of manslaughter; one count of driving without a valid license; and an infraction: failing to have insurance. And he still has not been arrested. (Manslaughter and misdemeanor seems to be an oxymoron).
It would appear that the national uproar about the case of Trayvon Martin in Sandford, Florida, and the refusal of the police department there to arrest and charge his killer, may have prompted the filing of charges here against Soto.
In his statement in the TCR, Soto claimed: “I observed a small dog …I swerved to avoid the dog and I collided with a postal car …” But two eye witnesses stated that Soto was wearing headphones and was holding his phone in his hand.
And one of them also said, “…he told the tow truck driver that he swerved to avoid a dog, but there was no dog there. I would have seen one if it was there…”
On speaking to legal experts, the Sentinel was told that those are the appropriate charges unless there was negligence on the part of Soto or if he was under the influence. In such instances, he could be charged with a felony and be arrested.
According to Dunn’s mother, Felicia Smith, ” … he (Soto) was driving under a suspended license, no insurance, and on his cell phone. He was not given a breath analyzer (the officer stated he didn’t appear to have been drinking). I feel with it being such a horrific accident more actions should have been taken …” Those things seem to rise to the threshold of negligence and it would appear that the misdemeanor filing is inappropriate.
Attorney Walter Mosley, Dunn’s family attorney told the Sentinel that there will be an Arraignment of Felipe Soto on April 20, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept 60 of the criminal courthouse at 1945 S. Hill Street. That is the traffic court. He also learned from the filing agency, the city attorney’s office, that nothing much will happen at the arraignment except the case will be assigned to a deputy attorney for handling and discovery will be exchanged between deputy city attorney and defense counsel. Also that families show up all the time at the arraignment and are disappointed because nothing much happens. Sometimes the defendant is not even there. (Soto does not even have to show up in court).
Attorney Mosley further stated, “We had the Dunn family write letters to the City Attorney to encourage them to be more aggressive in their handling of the matter. This case is not very important to them because the possible jail time is non-existent, the case will be hard to win because of the way the laws are written and they will spend a lot of money to get maybe one year at most.
Again, more than likely they will settle this case very quickly because it’s a misdemeanor. We are trying to apply pressure so they actually prosecute it to the full extent of the law (even though the charges have such small sentences).”
The letter that Dunn’s mother wrote also stated in part, ” … I feel that Anthony, my family, our friends and I have been robbed and cheated by this man Felipe Soto who was the person that was driving the passenger van that hit Anthony…. Felipe Soto lied and said he swerved to avoid hitting a dog. But, instead hit a human. The witness that was traveling behind him said there was no dog around. … Witnesses also said his first phone call was not to 911 but, to someone else. They had to tell him several times to call 911. He even asked for a coke (soda) … can you believe that? The officer said he saw a bottle of pills in plain view labeled hydrochlorothiazide 25mg. He said he looked it up on the internet and found that it was used for high blood pressure which is true but, was that really what was in that bottle? It could have been something different. Something just doesn’t add up right among other things.
“I feel this is so unfair and that something should be done. This senseless act should not be overlooked. PLEASE HELP US FIND JUSTICE FOR
ANTHONY………….HE DID NOT DESERVE THIS.”
The letter Dunn’s wife, Janell Dunn, wrote stated in part, “… I have no husband now. Instead of being one whole, I am one half. We were both in our early 30’s. Now since I have finished college; we had planned to start our family this year. But now, instead of picking out baby cribs, I had to pick out a casket…”
On hearing of the tragedy, Congresswoman Maxine Waters stated, “My heart goes out to Mrs. Janell Dunn and her family for the horrendous incident that caused the death of her husband, Anthony Earl Dunn. The incident caused him to have both of his legs severed after being hit by a driver with a suspended license.”
Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), issued the following statement: “The California Legislative Black Caucus believes that this unfortunate and tragic event deserves a full and thorough investigation by law enforcement. It is our expectation that all facts surrounding this case be reviewed by the appropriate authorities and that justice be properly served.”
Assemblyman Mike Davis, vice chairman of the CLBC stated, “While the Trayvon Martin case has caused a problem of injustice, so has the Anthony Dunn case in Los Angeles. I have received several comments from constituents on the Anthony Dunn case, a federal postal worker whose legs were severed by a Los Angeles County resident who was declared not intoxicated while driving. There are some questions if he was swerving to avoid a dog according to an eyewitness who did not see an animal at all. This resident was questioned by police and released as a result. However, is this resident a risk to our community when he chooses to drive a vehicle- even though he knew he was unlicensed?”
Dunn was 31 years old and a lifelong resident of Los Angeles. He graduated from Bellflower High School and attended El Camino College. He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Michael Evans, and a host of relatives and friends.
As of this writing, DUNN’S KILLER HAS STILL NOT BEEN ARRESTED!