9/24/2005

Dumping of Homeless Suspected Downtown - Los Angeles Times

Dumping of Homeless Suspected Downtown
# Police captain says he witnessed the long- rumored act. Sheriff defends his deputies.

For decades, it's been an enduring urban tale about downtown Los Angeles, often talked about but never proved: Police departments wanting to get rid of society's lost and neglected — the homeless, mentally ill and criminals — simply drove through downtown and dumped them in skid row.

But on Tuesday, evidence landed in the lap of the person who most needed it: Capt. Andrew Smith, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Division.

Smith said he was out on patrol with his partner about 10 a.m. Tuesday when he noticed a Los Angeles County sheriff's car driving down 6th Street.

The cruiser, he said, turned south on San Pedro, then west on 7th Street to San Julian Street. There, Smith watched in disbelief as two deputies "pulled over, took a guy in handcuffs out of the car. They took off the cuffs and handed him a bag," Smith said.

The captain and his partner immediately got out of their car and questioned the man and the deputies. Smith said the deputies told him that the man had been released from the Men's Central Jail and was standing outside on the street when a supervisor ordered them to take the man to a downtown mission.

"But there was no mission nearby," Smith said. "Only a line of guys sitting on milk crates."

Deputies have identified the man as Byron Harris, 27.

Smith said the man had a long history of arrests in the Lakewood area as well as Long Beach, where he lived. He said Harris told him he had not asked to be dropped off and had no connection to downtown Los Angeles. Smith also said the man told him he suffered from bipolar disorder.

To the captain, the incident reaffirmed what he believes has been going on downtown for years. Other police agencies, Smith said, and even some hospitals, "are dumping homeless, drunks, narcotic addicts and the criminal population into the downtown area…. We're fed up with it," he said.

Smith is not alone. As word of the incident spread across downtown, residents and city officials expressed anger and demanded that the Sheriff's Department investigate.

"I want an apology from Sheriff [Lee] Baca, to make sure this never happens again," said Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Assn., which represents business interests in the downtown toy and industrial districts.

Dumping of Homeless Suspected Downtown - Los Angeles Times

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