To the list that includes Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King add one more important historical figure struck down by an assassin’s bullet: Manuel Jamines.
Never heard of him?
Jamines, a day laborer, came to this country illegally from Guatemala and settled in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. Westlake is one of the most densely populated places in the country, with a very poor, heavily illegal, highly transitory Central American population living in a community notorious for illegal vendors, gangs, rampant drug dealing and other crimes.
On Sept. 5, someone flagged down three Los Angeles police officers riding on bicycles. A man, the officers were told, was wielding a knife and threatening passers-by, including a pregnant woman.
The officers confronted Manuel Jamines. They ordered him, in both Spanish and English, to drop the knife. He refused. Instead he raised the switchblade, with its 3-inch serrated blade, and lunged at the officers. He was shot twice and killed.
In the real world, a lawman doesn’t aim at the suspect’s ring finger on the hand holding the weapon. The officers did what they are trained to do when an attack is in progress — shoot to stop. It turned out that Jamines was drunk — and here illegally, a fact that the Los Angeles Times has yet to print. A more justifiable shooting would be hard to find. And for what it’s worth, the three responding officers, including the one who fired the fatal shots, are Latino.
What followed? Two days of riots.
Labeling the shooting an “assassination,” thugs set fires and threw rocks and bottles at police. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck blamed the riots not on the lawbreakers, but on national “anti-immigrant sentiment” that makes Westlake residents feel “disconnected.” “(The) community,” said the chief, “feels disconnected from the city. They feel like they don’t have a voice. I think they feel a lot of pressure because of the anti-immigrant sentiment that runs through a very common conversation in America right now.”
To help them feel connected, the chief held a town hall meeting. Some attendees called him “a murderer.” Protest marches and rallies followed, where the police were called “killers.”
“Advocacy” groups included the Revolutionary Communist Party and something called the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which claimed that five witnesses say the police shot an unarmed man.
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