Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, certain pistoleros stand out as either famous or infamous wielders of the wheelgun, be they exhibition shooters, or in this case, a serious practitioner of fighting pistolcraft. Periodically on Wheelgun Wednesday, we will take a quick look at such personalities. This week, let’s find out a little bit more about NYPD’s Jim Cirillo.
For those not familiar with the name, Jim Cirillo was one of the members of New York City’s “Stakeout Squad”, a team tasked to tackle the explosion of violent crime plaguing the city back in the 1960s. Jim and his colleagues would use the old-fashioned analog version of predictive analytics, otherwise known as good detective work, to choose a business that was likely to be robbed and “stake it out.” This involved waiting either inside or outside the location for the robbery to begin. Often it ended in gunfire, with the perpetrator/s dead or wounded.
Cirillo’s techniques and persistent practice with his wheelguns paid serious dividends. Over his career, he was involved in over 20 gunfights, a lot of them resulting in the offenders’ deceased. Due to his gunfights taking place in the cramped corner stores common to NYC, Jim had to be hyper-aware of his target and what lay beyond it. His instinctive shooting style paid dividends, however, and hitting criminals, not bystanders was a quality of his.
Weapon of choice
In the 1960s, the issued revolver of the day for the NYPD was S&W’s Model 10 chambered in .38 Special. Cirillo would regularly carry at least one Model 10, usually having another one on him as an authentic “New York reload”. Another revolver he was fond of was a 2″ Colt Cobra, also chambered in .38 Special. Cirillo would modify his primary revolver by wrapping the grips in electrical tape to better match the contour of his hand. He has written in his books that the gunfights were so fast and in such close quarters that when he ran out of ammunition in his primary revolver, often it was faster to draw his backup revolver and resume firing.
Colt Cobra. Image Credit: Gunsamerica
Colt Cobra. Image Credit: Gunsamerica
Though firearms and especially ammunition technology has dated some of Cirillo’s equipment preferences, his career story and firearms techniques are a wealth of information from someone who has been in so many gunfights in close quarters, and is highly recommended reading for anyone who carries a firearm, be it for work or self defense. Though Jim passed away a number of years ago, his wisdom lives on. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you read one of the biographies of this wheelgun wizard.
Hallelujah! The legacy media has finally started covering ATF’s unconstitutional war on the country’s gun dealers, which the pro-gun media has been denouncing and warning the public about for more than two years.
The more scrutiny the ATF receives, the more difficult it will be for them to continue violating our constitutional rights. But remember that ATF officials are masters of hoodwinking and gaslighting the media and the public. Their responses to the WSJ and FOX show that ATF’s leadership are up to their old tricks. Clearly, they’re trying to downplay the significance of what they’ve already done, and what they continue to do every single day.
In an emailed statement to Fox News, ATF said it is merely following the law:
“Federal Firearms Licensees are often our first line of defense against gun crime and are often a source of critical enforcement information that helps law enforcement identify straw purchasers and disrupt firearms trafficking schemes,” ATF Spokesperson Kristina Mastropasqua said. “FFLs that willfully (emphasis mine) violate the law, however, must be held accountable. ATF conducts inspections to ensure compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations and to educate licensees on the specific requirements of those laws and regulations.”
For those familiar with Joe Biden’s weaponized ATF, the word “willfully” should jump off the page.
In a story published in May 2020, one expert warned that the ATF had redefined “willful” to bolster Biden’s zero-tolerance for willful violations policy. Now, because of the new definition, if a dealer makes a simple clerical error, they can lose their license because the new definition of willful states that the dealer knew the law, but willfully chose to violate it anyway – regardless of whether it was a simple oversight, an error by an employee or a minor paperwork mistake.
“They have twisted negligence into willful,” the ATF expert said. “These are not uncommon errors that we’re seeing. Things happen.”
Revoked vs. Surrendered
Both FOX and the WSJ cited ATF revocation data that claimed there were 122 Federal Firearm License revocations during the last fiscal year, which began in October.
First, I need to point out that ATF data – any ATF data – is immediately suspect. I’d rather rely on an 8mm Type 94 Nambu for home defense than any numbers ATF publishes. There is no doubt that far more then 122 FFLs were revoked, but this is not the point.
After a series of embarrassing losses during their own revocation hearings, ATF switched up some of its tactics. Now, in addition to formal revocation proceedings, ATF agents try to scare the hell out of a gun dealer they’ve targeted, hoping they will “voluntarily” surrender their license and avoid hearings and reams of paperwork.
An FFL is an FFL to the ATF. It doesn’t matter how they get their hands on them, but any truthful data should also include the number of FFLs that were “voluntarily” surrendered.
When covering anything ATF, particular attention needs to be paid to their legalese. Often, when ATF claims a gun dealer broke the law, it’s not really a law. It’s actually a rule the ATF came up with themselves. More than a few courts have chastised the agency for trying to be judge, jury and executioner. They’ve violated real laws by creating and enforcing their own rules, which carry the full weight of a federal law, such as fines and lengthy prison terms.
ATF still can’t grasp that Congress creates laws, not the administration or any federal law enforcement agency. They’re headed for a spanking from the Supreme Court that will be legendary in its scope.
When a public official or the agency they represent have nothing to hide, they take questions. They submit to interviews. They give out their cellphone numbers. They make themselves available to the media and the public. After all, they work for us, or at least they’re supposed to.
Nowadays, ATF leadership is hiding deep in a bunker. They don’t respond to emails, phone calls or ever FOIA requests. When pressed hard, they’ll sometimes send a written statement, but only after it’s been approved by teams of lawyers and communications staffers.
This alone speaks volumes about the ATF. It says they don’t believe in accountability to the public, which pays their salaries. It also screams that they have a lot to hide – far more than what’s already been uncovered.
I hope the legacy media’s interest in ATF’s shenanigans continues – the more, the merrier. Besides, ATF has become bloated with lies and is long overdue for a massive investigative enema.
This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.
About Lee Williams
Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shoote
A 54-year-old woman living just outside of Tucson, Arizona didn’t really want to have to shoot a neighbor to tried to force entry to her residence, but the man didn’t give her many options. Living by herself, she didn’t have anyone else to help her repel the would-be intruder. She did have a handgun, though, and he availed herself to the great equalizer.
The would-be intruder, a 42-year-old registered sex offender named Jayson Magrum, apparently didn’t care that she’d gotten her gun and told him to stop. Maybe he didn’t think she’d use it. She even fired a warning shot as he tried to crawl in through a window. Even after the shot, Magrum reached in and tried to disarm the woman.
That’s when she shot him. At point-blank range, the pistol proved itself as a great equalizer, ending the attack. The sex offender collapsed after a few more steps and will re-offend no more.
The incident happened just after 2 p.m. on Aug. 11 near Garvey and Pyle Roads. Investigators say 42-year-old Jayson Magrum tried to break into a 54-year-old woman’s home. The woman was home alone and yelled at Magrum to leave, but he allegedly continued to try and break into the home.
“The female armed herself with a handgun and fired a shot out of a window to attempt to scare the male away,” the sheriff’s department said.
Magrum allegedly reached inside the home and tried to take away the gun. The woman then opened fire, shooting Magrum.
Magrum collapsed in the driveway and died at the scene
Once again, a successful defensive gun uses brought to you by the Founders and the right to keep and bear arms. The only thing that stops bad people with evil in their heart is a good guy or good gal with a gun. That is all.
NEW YORK CITY – A man fleeing New York City police officers on a motorcycle died Wednesday after a sergeant hurled a plastic picnic cooler at his head from close range, causing a violent crash, authorities said.
The sergeant, Erik Duran, was suspended without pay just hours after the death of Eric Duprey, 30, in the University Heights section of the Bronx, police said.
Surveillance video viewed by The Associated Press showed Duprey driving the gas-powered motorcycle on a sidewalk toward a group of people, including the sergeant, who was not in uniform.
As he approached, the video shows Duran pick up a red object — the picnic cooler — and throw it. Duprey is struck hard. He loses control, then is tossed toward a tree as the motorcycle veers into the street. The bike smashes into a metal barricade before coming to rest against a parked car.
Duprey was pronounced dead at the scene minutes after the crash, which happened around 5:30 p.m.
Police said Duprey tried to flee on a friend’s motorcycle after he was caught selling drugs to an undercover police officer. The sergeant was standing on the sidewalk as part of the “buy-and-bust” operation carried out by the Bronx Narcotics Unit. Police declined to specify what drugs Duprey was accused of selling.
Reached by phone, Duprey’s mother, Gretchen Soto, told The Associated Press the police narrative was “all lies,” insisting her son was not selling drugs or trying to evade officers. She said she was on a video call with him from Puerto Rico on Wednesday when suddenly the screen went dark.
“He wasn’t fleeing. He wasn’t fleeing. He was just on the motorcycle talking to me on the video chat. And he passed by that place when all of a sudden the call cut out,” she said in Spanish.
She said Duprey lived in the Bronx, worked as a delivery driver and had three children, ages 3, 5 and 9.
“They left three fatherless babies,” Soto said. “I’m going to get justice.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which has jurisdiction to probe deaths involving police, is investigating. The NYPD said it is cooperating.
“The NYPD is committed to ensuring that there will be a full, thorough, and transparent investigation of this incident to determine the facts and to take the appropriate steps forward,” the department said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with Duran’s union. The Daily News first reported the incident.
Duran, a 13-year veteran of the department, joined the Bronx Narcotics Unit last September. He has been recognized by the department dozens of times for what it deems excellent and meritorious police service, according to a police personnel database.
Duran’s disciplinary record includes a substantiated complaint last year for abusing his authority during a stop, according to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The Los Angeles Police Commission has given the police department approval to use a special nonlethal device on Metro trains and buses.
If approved by Metro, officers would carry the BolaWrap, a handheld device that fires a lasso-like cord that wraps around a person’s legs or waist. The wraps are equipped with hooks that are supposed to sink into clothing and restrict a person’s ability to move until police can detain them.
The device was introduced in 2019 as a less than lethal way of dealing with people in mental distress, as a way to avoid hurting people, but being able to restrain them, officials said.
LAPD officers in Hollywood and the Central Division have not used the BolaWrap that much in the last few years, but Chief Michel Moore wants to change that and give the device to officers who patrol the Metro’s buses and trains as part of a year-long pilot program.
Officials with the police department met with Metro Wednesday afternoon in order to discuss the idea. Just a few hours later, Metro released a statement that read in part:
“The LAPD will be scheduling a demonstration of the device for Metro as an alternative to use of force in the system and will share its proposed plans to pilot its use on the Metro system, for Metro’s consideration.”
While it’s unclear when that demonstration might happen, officials say the BolaWrap is most effective when it’s used on targets that are less than 20 feet away. When it’s launched, the Kevlar tether stretches to about 8 feet wide just before impact, which could present problems inside a narrow bus or train that’s crowded with seats and poles.
It may be a tool better suited for use on station platforms and the escalators coming and going, KTLA 5’s Rick Chambers reports.
The BolaWrap shoots a Kevlar tether meant to wrap around a person’s waist or legs and temporarily restrain them without serious injury.
However, during a 2020 pilot program with the nonlethal device, LAPD data shows that officers only used the device nine times in eight months, and was deemed “effective” in six instances.
I’ve warned you guys. Weird things happen in gunfights. You should expect an Elbonian satellite to fall on your head, or a gopher the size of a grizzly to erupt from the ground at your feet. I’ve encouraged you to believe your eyes, shrug off bizarre twists, and stay focused on the threat. Some of you shared your own stories of bizarre “moments ’midst mayhem,” and a whole bunch of you asked for real-world examples. A few readers were even dubious about the possibility of such strange happenings happenin’. So, for you doubting Thomases, here are some examples from my private stock.
NUCLEAR .38 SPECIAL ROUNDS?
I was a rookie patrolman when my senior partner and I were called to back up a pair of robbery detectives. They planned to kick in a door at a felon-filled flophouse hotel, crunch some cockroaches and yank a sleepy stickup-shooting suspect outta his grimy sheets. His room was on the second floor of this converted century-old residence, and a rickety stairway led directly from his crib down to a garbage-littered lot. That’s where Davey and I were posted — just in case Plan A went South when the “dicks” kicked the front door. It did.
We weren’t quite “positioned” when multiple muffled gunshots preceded Hairball Harry’s rapid exit out onto the landing. There was a flash of light as the door banged hard against the rail, and both Davey and I thought it was a muzzle flash and gunshot. Davey was standing in front of me with his trusty 6″ S&W Model 10 aimed at Harry. He squeezed (or jerked) the trigger — and the stairway landing seemed to explode, with a hurricane of splinters and dust billowing out toward us as simultaneously, the entire stairway screeched, groaned, and collapsed to the deck.
I pushed past Davey when a second after that, a ground-floor back door flew open and two skivvie-clad bed-headed dudes with pistols in their mitts staggered outside, blinded by the clouds of dust, shouting stuff like “COPS! They’re usin’ grenades!” and searching for targets. Using some ungentlemanly language, I convinced ’em of the inferiority of their tactical situation. Good thing they didn’t fight — my partner was still standing there, frozen, with his revolver a hand’s-breadth from his nose, staring incredulously at the muzzle. He was lost in his own world, wondering how a lead 158 gr. SWC could blow up a stairway and two landings. Finally, I had to grab the gun and gently awaken him.
The gunshots were Hairball Harry’s response to his door gettin’ kicked. The dicks had sidestepped, and were occupied with straightening out a pair of pucker-factor-induced “wedgies.” That flash was the bulb of an outside light’s last gasp as its fuse blew out. The once-heavy wooden beams and planks of that stairway were virtually hollow shells filled with a century’s worth of termites and wood-powder. It simply imploded under Harry’s weight. He was unconscious, suffering multiple injuries, snoozin’ in the wreckage.
The Big Diff between me an’ Davey was that previous combat experience had taught me stuff blows up and weird things happen in gunfights, and you have to keep your head in the game.
A patrolman pal of mine had an armed dope dealer cornered in an inky-black blind alley. They were casually trading occasional shots, waitin’ for backup to arrive, when suddenly a huge supernova light came on, a door swung open, and the alley was instantly filled with laughing, leaping, twirling cheerleaders, complete with pompoms, ponytails, big bells on their shoes and those cute little kick-skirts. Dudes! Wanna talk weird here? The entire pep-an’-cheer outfit from a local college had just finished a late photo-session on a theatre stage. The best part? As the cheerleaders danced an’ advanced down the alley past my pal, the dope-dealer tried to sneak out with ’em!
“Unbelievable,” my buddy told me; “Here’s this dreadlocked dude wearing a Rastafarian cap and a filthy M-65 (field jacket), skipping along between cheerleaders, still holding a Beretta 92 in one hand. Skipping!” Rasta-man didn’t get away, and nobody got hurt, but my pal said it was an ugly scene. “The shrieking and screaming hurt my ears worse than the gunshots did,” he said. “Never jump out from behind a dumpster and point a pistol anywhere near a buncha cheerleaders.”
DON’T SHOOT WHITEY: HE’S MINE!
“Tommy D,” another badge-wearing brother, is well known for his morbid fear of dogs. They tend to bite him, fiercely and frequently. He had chased a biker bad guy into the back yard and the two were faced off pointing pistols at each other, when outta the shadows waddled an irritated overweight Welsh Corgi, who commenced chewing Tommy’s ankle.
Distracted but undaunted, Tommy and Biker Bill continued discussing whom oughtta throw down whose howitzer when suddenly, a little white Pit Bull pup ran between Biker Bill’s legs and skidded to a snarling stop in front of Tommy. That’s when I arrived — just in time to slap leather and watch in horror as T.D.’s eyes saucered and his shaking gun dropped to point at the Pit Bull!
I was a half-second short of blasting Biker Bill when he flung his gun to the grass and screamed, “Don’t shoot Whitey! He’s mine!” I’ll leave the detailed analysis to you guys. Just watch out for grizzly-gophers and Elbonian satellites, okay?
“‘Civil rights’ used to be about treating everyone the same. But today, some are so used to special treatment that equal treatment is considered ‘discrimination!’” ~ Thomas Sowell
Any who champions “diversity” needs to be asked how many conservatives serve on the LA City Council!
Anti-police/anti-policing sentiment among far-left activists (i.e., Communists, many of whom sit on the LA City Council), and tacitly supported by Democrats and most of the media, has manufactured a “crisis of policing” in LA (and many other metro areas).
Current LAPD Police Chief, Michael Moore, is reluctantly reporting LAPD’s complement of sworn officers has now dropped below 9000 officers for the first time since the 1990s
The City’s budget calls for 9300 sworn officers (from a high of 9900 in 2010), but hiring is going poorly. Understandably, no one wants to be a cop, even with lowered hiring standards! The current recruit class has only twenty-five candidates.
As a result, there are no longer enough patrolmen and detectives to handle “petty crimes.”
In practical terms, this means that when you call the police in LA for anything short of a life-threatening, forcible felony in progress, they’re not coming!
The operator will curtly tell you to go to their web page and “file a report online.”
Thus, beleaguered LA residents, who are still paying ridiculously high, first-world taxes, in exchange, get to live in a third-world sewer.
In the 1990s, Mayor Rudy Giuliani in NYC warned that when a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. “Petty crimes,” vandalism, graffiti, burglary, public begging, squatting, illegal drug use, prostitution, filth, when not dealt with promptly and appropriately, quickly digress into out-of-control major crimes.
There is no debating this!
And this is exactly what we’re currently seeing in Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and yes, LA. As a result, people (especially the productive) are fleeing these liberal-manufactured sewers as quickly as possible.
Of course, Giuliani was viciously ridiculed and scorned by Democrats and their media commissars. Yet under Giuliani, NYC was the safest and cleanest big city in America, in the world, and people wanted to live there.
Today, they’re all fleeing NYC too, and for the same reasons.
“No society has ever thrived, because it had a large and growing class of parasites, living off those who produce” ~ Thomas Sowell, again…
About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor, John Farnam will urge you, based on your beliefs, to make up your mind about what you would do when faced with an imminent lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance if any. Defense Training International wants to ensure that its students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or in-actions.
It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to Planet Earth. Mr. Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit: www.defense-training.com
After years of light enforcement to encourage cooperation, ATF is clamping down on firearm sellers, who say they are being unfairly targeted
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employs about 800 people to inspect licensed firearms dealers across the country.PHOTO: TIM SLOAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Biden administration is revoking licenses from hundreds of firearms dealers in a significant escalation of federal enforcement actions that has angered many in the gun industry.
It has also provoked disagreement among law-enforcement veterans. Some say it is a welcome change after years of wrist slaps, while others say it risks alienating some of the government’s most valuable sources in combating gun violence.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has revoked the licenses of 122 gun dealers in the fiscal year that began in October, up from 90 for all last fiscal year and 27 in 2021.
Previously, ATF issued warnings to many firearms dealers for legal violations, in part because they are a valuable source of tips on suspicious gun buyers. The Trump and Obama administrations never revoked more than 81 dealers’ licenses annually since at least 2013, the earliest year for which data are available.
Gun dealers have filed lawsuits and threatened to stop informing federal agents about suspicious buyers, claiming that the crackdown is a way to punish the firearms industry by an administration hostile to them.
The Biden administration, which has been pushing to more tightly regulate guns both via legislation and administrative action, said it is simply enforcing the law.
ATF Director Steve Dettelbach said guns can end up getting sold to criminals and others who shouldn’t have them if dealers don’t follow the rules. PHOTO: OLIVER CONTRERAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
“We’ve taken steps to hold accountable those few dealers who are engaging in these willful violations,” said ATF Director Steve Dettelbach. “They’re not going to have the privilege of being a gun dealer anymore.”
Dettelbach said guns can end up getting sold to criminals and others who shouldn’t have them if dealers don’t follow the rules.
Gun-store owners complain that the federal government is taking away their livelihoods over paperwork errors.
“We were making $1 million a year, now it’s less than $100,000,” said Anthony Navarro, who lost his license last year after receiving three earlier warnings since 2009. “This policy is designed to be a backdoor violation of the Second Amendment.”
Navarro still sells firearm accessories at his Greeley, Colo., store.
The ATF employs about 800 people to inspect more than 50,000 licensed dealers across the country. In the past, the agency had a light touch with inspections in part because it relied on dealers for information about suspicious gun buyers, according to former ATF officials.
“The gun dealers were our first line of defense against gun trafficking,” said Peter Forcelli, a retired deputy assistant director. “Why are we now beating an ally into submission?”
Other former officials said that the soft approach created an environment in which dealers weren’t worried about breaking the rules.
“The ATF, previous to this administration, had a ‘Let’s see if we can help you’ attitude and some gun dealers took advantage of that,” said Rick Vasquez, a retired ATF official.
President Biden’s tougher approach comes after a yearslong push by gun-control groups such as Brady to go after rogue gun dealers. Brady compiled about 80,000 pages of ATF inspection reports in recent years to highlight the issue.
Christian Heyne is vice president of policy and programs at Brady, which advocates for tighter gun laws. PHOTO: TOM WILLIAMS/ZUMA PRESS
“We could see regularly that recommendations for revocation were being downgraded and then these same stores would be inspected again for even at times even more than a decade,” said Christian Heyne, vice president of policy and programs at Brady.
Heyne discovered that an ATF inspector had in 2015 recommended revoking Navarro’s license for his shop in Colorado after sending him warning letters in 2009 and 2011. The 2015 inspection turned up 10 violations, including selling guns to people who said they were prohibited from owning guns on background check forms. An ATF supervisor overturned the recommendation, saying Navarro should be given a warning conference instead, the inspection reports show.
Navarro said some customers made mistakes when filling out background check forms, but weren’t prohibited from buying firearms.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How should regulation of gun dealers be enforced? Join the conversation below.
In 2020, inspectors found more violations, including failing to report multiple sales of handguns and failing to keep records of some transactions. Officials noted that they had warned Navarro to clean up his act on multiple occasions, according to agency documents.
Navarro said he discovered those issues after one of his employees quit. “It was a horrendous mess,” he said. “This guy hid forms underneath the printer.”
He said he reported the problems to the ATF as soon as he found them.
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The agency revoked his license to sell firearms last year.
An ATF spokeswoman declined to comment on specific cases.
A North Dakota gun store that recently filed a lawsuit against the ATF alleged that the new approach to inspections is being “wielded as a political weapon.” Bridge City Ordnance had sued the agency over an unrelated matter when inspectors recommended revoking its license. Lawyers for the gun store declined to comment, as did the ATF.
Leslie Gifford, an 82-year-old retiree who sold firearms out of his garage in Burlington, Kan., for the past three decades, tried to fight back when the ATF pulled his license last year for several violations including selling a gun to a man from Nebraska. Such sales are required to go through a dealer in the purchaser’s home state.
At a hearing, Gifford said he thought the sale was allowed because the man had a concealed-carry license from Nebraska, and he apologized, according to ATF documents. He attributed other violations to being too busy.
The ATF wasn’t moved by his pleas, ruling that “there is no legal justification for a licensee’s claim that circumstances, such as being busy or overwhelmed, excuses the failure.”
Gifford said he believes the government was determined to revoke his license, rather than reach a reasonable compromise.
“Mr. Biden wants to get rid of all of us little dealers,” said Gifford. “Gets me wound up, boy. It’s a political game, sure as hell.”
Early in the morning of March 3, 1991, Rodney Glen King was driving a 1987 Hyundai Excel along the Foothill Freeway in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. He was accompanied by his friends Freddie Helms and Bryant Allen. King and his buddies had killed the previous evening watching basketball and drinking at a friend’s house. At around 1230 in the morning, King passed Tim and Melanie Singer, a husband/wife California Highway Patrol team. The Singers initiated a pursuit, eventually reaching speeds of 117 mph. King refused to pull over.
King later admitted that he knew a DUI charge would violate his parole and send him back to prison. 2.5 years earlier King had robbed a Korean grocery store while armed with an iron bar. He assaulted the store owner and made off with $200 cash. King was eventually apprehended, tried, and convicted. He served one year of a two-year sentence before being released.
King departed the freeway and led the cops on a merry chase through residential neighborhoods at high speeds. The pursuit eventually involved multiple police units from different agencies as well as a police helicopter. After some eight miles the officers finally cornered King and stopped his car.
King’s two companions were removed from the vehicle and arrested albeit with some violence. Freddie Helms was later treated for a laceration to his head. For his part, King purportedly giggled and waved at the orbiting helicopter. The senior LAPD officer onsite took charge and directed the LAPD contingent to swarm King for a takedown.
Up until this point the cops were clearly in the right. However, everybody involved was energized. The arresting officers beat King mercilessly and tased him at least once. Medical personnel later documented a right ankle fracture, a crushed facial bone, and sundry contusions and lacerations. King’s Blood Alcohol Content indeed showed him to have been legally intoxicated. His tox screen was also positive for marijuana. Without the knowledge of the police, a local plumbing salesman named George Holliday shot a video of the brutal beating. This footage eventually made it into the media.
The story behind the Holliday footage is simply fascinating. The opening biker bar scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day was being filmed just across the street from where the cops finally stopped King’s Hyundai. Holliday actually had his video camera set up in hopes of catching a glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
During a subsequent interview he said, “Before the beating, right across the street from where we lived was a biker bar, and they were filming Terminator 2: Judgment Day there. I actually have footage on the original tape of Schwarzenegger getting on the bike and riding off.” Had they not been filming the movie, Holliday would not have had his video camera in position and ready.
Thirteen days later, 15-year-old Latasha Harlins entered Empire Liquor in Los Angeles and put a $1.79 bottle of orange juice in her backpack. Soon Ja Du, a Korean-American woman who owned the establishment along with her husband, confronted her about it. Du claimed that Harlins denied having the juice. Two young witnesses disputed that claim, asserting that Harlins had the money for the juice in her hand and was planning to pay for it.
Latasha Harlins was the product of some of the most sordid stuff. Her father regularly beat her mother until they eventually separated. When Latasha was nine years old her father’s new girlfriend shot and killed her mother in a dispute outside an LA nightclub. The poor girl was subsequently raised by her maternal grandmother.
Harlins and Du got into a shouting and shoving match, and Du ended up on the floor. As Harlins turned to leave, Du retrieved a revolver from behind the counter and shot the girl once in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Though she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Du was only sentenced to five years’ probation, a ten-year suspended prison sentence, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine. The sentencing judge stated that the fact that Du had been robbed multiple times before affected her actions and mitigated her culpability.
The four police officers who beat Rodney King were subsequently tried and acquitted. Film director John Singleton was in the crowd outside the courthouse when the news was announced and stated, “By having this verdict, what these people done, they lit the fuse to a bomb.” His words were prescient.
The synergistic combination of Rodney King’s vicious videotaped beating, the acquittal of the officers involved, and Soon Ja Du’s mild sentence in the killing of Latasha Harlins precipitated a hurricane of violence. Riots began the day after the verdict was announced. Soon much of LA was in flames.
64 people died in the violence, and another 2,383 were injured. 3,600 fires were set and 1,100 buildings were immolated. Fire calls came into dispatchers at a rate of one per minute for a time. First responders were utterly overwhelmed.
The government invoked a dusk-to-dawn curfew and mobilized the California National Guard along with Federal Law Enforcement and some active-duty military personnel. The violence continued for six days. Property damage ultimately ran between $800 million and $1 billion.
One extraordinary episode demonstrated why military troops should never be used in Law Enforcement roles. When responding to a domestic violence incident a combined force of LAPD officers and US Marines closed on a Compton home. A violent criminal was holding his family hostage inside. Upon their approach, the suspect fired two shotgun rounds through the front door, injuring a police officer. One of the LAPD cops then shouted, “Cover me!”
In keeping with their training, the Marines immediately laid down a withering base of fire to cover the cop’s maneuver. In a matter of moments, they had saturated the house with some 200 rounds. Miraculously the inhabitants were unharmed. A bit shocked, I rather suspect, but nonetheless unhurt.
In general, Koreans were the local shop owners, while African-Americans were their customers. There was a low-grade antipathy percolating between these two ethnic groups that boiled over after the Harlins incident. As a result, rioters targeted Korean-owned businesses for destruction. Police were so overwhelmed as to be unable to respond to calls for help. Countless established family businesses were burned to the ground.
The businesses that survived were those that were adequately defended. In a violent, chaotic, lawless world, some Koreans armed themselves, retreated to their rooftops, and prepared to shoot looters. The resulting iconography created a modern legend among responsible armed Americans. The controversy surrounding those people, their actions, and those images roils even today.
I studied all the pictures I could find to see what sorts of weapons these armed Americans were using. In 1991 California gun control laws were not quite so draconian as is the case today. For the most part, these armed Koreans wielded fairly mundane ordnance.
Standard-capacity combat handguns like Beretta 92’s, Glock 17’s, and sundry Smith and Wesson pistols were in evidence. There were numerous bolt-action hunting rifles along with sporting shotguns of various flavors. I spotted a couple of Mini-14 rifles and an AK. The most intriguing weapon I could find was a Daewoo Precision Industries K2.
The K2 is currently the standard service rifle of the South Korean military. Development began in 1972 and spanned a variety of prototypes in two different calibers. The definitive 5.56mm version was first fielded in 1985.
The resulting weapon reflected the state of the art. A gas piston-driven design based upon the proven Kalashnikov action, the K2 fed from STANAG magazines and featured a 1-in-7.3 inch, 6-groove barrel. GI weapons included safe, semi, 3-round burst, and full auto functions. Small numbers of semiauto variants were briefly imported by Kimber, Stoeger, and B-West in the 1980s. The 1989 import ban via executive order by Bush the First capped the numbers in the country and rendered the gun an instant collector’s item. From what I have seen at least one of these superlative weapons made its way onto the rooftops of these Korean-owned businesses during the LA riots.
The Rest of the Story
Rodney King was ultimately awarded a $3.8 million civil judgment and became fairly wealthy as a result. He bought a house for his mother as well as another for himself with the proceeds. Tragically, King never mastered his sobriety. In 2012 he fell into his swimming pool and drowned. He had cocaine, marijuana, PCP, and alcohol in his system at the time. He was 47.
Two of the four cops involved in the beating were eventually convicted of violating King’s civil rights and spent 30 months in federal prison. All four left Law Enforcement. None of them remained in California.
Reginald Denny, a passing white truck driver, was dragged from his vehicle by an angry mob and brutally beaten. One rioter struck him in the back of the head with a cinder block, severely fracturing his skull. After extensive surgery and therapy, Denny eventually regained the capacity to walk. I guess that’s something.
Today the uprising is referred to as “Sa-i-gu” within the LA Korean community. This translates as “April 29,” the day the violence began. During those six horrible days, multiple warning shots were fired, but no rioters were injured or killed by the rooftop Koreans. Like all parasitic scavengers, the rioters gravitated toward the areas with the easiest pickings. Businesses bristling with armed Koreans were essentially left alone.
Modern commentary on the phenomenon of the rooftop Koreans is delightfully biased. Left-wing commentators state that the willingness of these shop owners to arm themselves in defense of their businesses was pure unfettered racism. They further assert that those of us who venerate this behavior are knuckle-dragging neanderthals awash in toxic masculinity and driven by insensate, race-based venom. I must respectfully disagree.
Speaking solely for myself, of course, I don’t care one whit what color the people were who were defending their businesses or burning them down. I tend to judge others based on their civic-mindedness and propensity toward responsible behavior. Regardless of ethnicity, I categorize those who burned down their neighborhoods as the Bad Guys and those who prevented them from doing so as the Good Guys. Failure to appreciate that obvious truth seems fairly incomprehensible to me.
There is but a thin veneer of civility that separates human animals from the lesser sort. We never seem to be more than one headline away from violence and carnage. To those who might defend the actions of the rioters, you’re all idiots. Feel free to venerate the criminals if that be your wish, but don’t act surprised when the rest of us find solace in our firearms and sense of community.
I don’t minimize the egregious nature of the Rodney King and Latasha Harlin’s tragedies. However, they both had their origins in deep societal brokenness. Until we can repair the basic family structure in these derelict communities nothing will ever get better. Guns, poverty, drugs, and violence are simply symptoms. Dysfunctional families, a dearth of responsible fathers, and a lack of positive role models is the underlying disease. It remains to be seen if anyone has the moral fortitude to stop screaming about the symptoms and conjure an effective cure.