Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another Riot, Another Time

“We got caught up in the minute…”
by Robert A. Waters

Regardless of what anybody says, there is no excuse for rioting, looting, and violence.  The Ferguson crowd should be prosecuted, but if previous riots are a measure, the thugs committing these acts will serve little time.  In 1991, the Rodney King riots left dozens dead and large swaths of businesses destroyed.  In most cases, the perpetrators were not held accountable.

Reginald was a working stiff.

Damian, Antoine, Henry, and Gary never worked.  Gang members, they made their living hustling and committing street crimes.

On that afternoon, Reginald drove a Kenworth T800 Tandem Axle Dump Truck through the heart of Los Angeles.  He was hauling 27 tons of sand to a plant in Inglewood.  His truck had no radio, so he was unaware of the riots that had exploded earlier that day.  At 6:56 p.m., he stopped at an intersection on Florence Avenue.

As groups of people blocked the juncture, Antoine opened the door of Reginald’s cab.  Several men pulled Reginald out and threw him onto the road.  A group of unidentified men began kicking him, while another smashed his head with a claw-hammer.  Damian hurled a slab of concrete at the downed man, hitting him in the skull and knocking him unconscious.  Henry and Gary helped in the assault, and afterwards, Gary danced over the injured man.

A news helicopter covering the riots recorded the whole sequence.  As the beating played out live on the evening news, Anthony spat on Reginald.  Others in the area made no attempt to assist the fallen trucker, nor did nearby LAPD officers.

From their homes, several residents watched in horror as the beating continued.  Eventually, at least four went out into the street to help.  After Reginald regained consciousness, he climbed back into the cab and attempted to get away.  One of the residents helped drive him to the hospital.

Reginald Denny survived, but his skull was fractured in 91 places.  Bone pushed into his brain.  His left eye was dislocated, the socket shattered, and doctors had to rebuild the sinus cavities.  Denny underwent decades of therapy.  His speech and ability to walk were permanently damaged.  His injuries ruined him financially, as well as physically.  Today, he lives and works in Arizona, avoiding the spotlight.

Four of Denny’s attackers were identified as Damian “Football” Williams, Antoine “Twan” Miller, Henry Keith “Kiki” Watson, and Gary Williams.  Watson later said: “Nobody specifically sought out Reginald Denny to cause him any harm.  We got caught up in the moment, just like everyone else.”

The “L. A. Four,” as they came to be known, served little time for their crimes.  All got light sentences or no sentences at all.

Damian “Football” Williams served four years of a ten-year sentence.  He was later convicted of murdering an acquaintance and sentenced to 46 years.

Henry Keith “Kiki” Watson had previously served a prison sentence for robbery.  After being convicted only of a misdemeanor for his role in the Denny beating, he walked free.  He later served another sentence for drug offenses.

Gary Williams, a drug addict and panhandler, also walked free.  He hasn’t been heard from since.

Antoine “Twan” Miller served no time for the attack on Denny.  He was shot and killed in 2004.  A Los Angeles Times article informed readers that “Miller had an extensive criminal record that included arrests and convictions for gun possession, burglary, theft and assault.”

While many minimized the behavior of the “L. A. Four,” even a quick glance at the Reginald Denny beating shines a light on viciousness that is rarely seen in the open.  Regardless of any supposed grievances, there was no excuse for the crime.
 

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