I had a phone conversation this morning with Leon Rosby, whose dog Max was shot by Hawthorne police in late June while he was being arrested for alleged "obstruction" of police. The incident was videoed and became a viral sensation. (The video will appear at the end of this post, and if you missed it the first time and are a dog lover, be warned it's brutal and upsetting.)
Rosby got in touch with me because he wanted it known that the conviction for battery mentioned (in a quote originally from the Daily Breeze) in my earlier blog post on his case happened in 1989. He didn't think it fair that the impression be created that he was currently the type of man to get in serious trouble with the law.
These days, he says he's about ministering to the homeless; his Facebook page identifies him as a minister with "World Overcomers, Inc." His earlier problems with the law were those of a a very much younger man, he says, going through a tough time and Rosby "wanted to make sure people realize you can be reformed, be a model citizen" despite problems with the law far in the past.
In fact, he suspects police made a point of spreading his (long past) criminal record to suggest that, well, this guy in a conflict with them is regularly in trouble for good reason. Rosby thinks his problems with the law are the result of the fact he's currently suing them for excessive use of force, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of distress (see his complaint).
Rosby tells me he has another complaint in against the police over the Max incident and that if they don't respond to his satisfaction, he may file another lawsuit. "If people say, aw, he's just looking for money, well, if they could give me Max back there would be no problem," he says. "But I want Hawthorne to understand that that was wrong and cruel to have me illegally handcuffed and turn around and shoot my dog four time. I thought I was in America or something, and people tell me I didn't have a reason to be there. Man, I live in the community of Hawthorne" and indeed very close to the scene of the incident. He points out the video shows plenty of other people near the perimeter of the police's ongoing action, and that he was clearly in no way obstructing them from their business. (Police had a home with armed robbery suspects surrounded on the block.)
A court date for his prior suit, filed last year over an incident last July, isn't set til May 2014.
Some details of the 2012 incident from Rosby's perspective, from his filed complaint. After responding to a call from his wife over what he characterizes as a nonviolent domestic dispute:
an army of officers appeared and attacked Mr. Rosby without cause or reason…slamming him to the ground, and then punching and kicking him repeatedly. The officers stated while beating him that they recognized him as the "troublemaker" who had previously made a complaint about the lack of African American officers employed with the Hawthorne police department, and about a prior complaint that the Hawthorne police department had engaged in racial profiling of Plaintiff on July 29, 2011.
From Rosby's perspective, he's been "harassed, jacked up, you name it" since filing the suit, in a variety of incidents that led him to file six other complaints, and that various officers on the scene during the incident when Max was shot knew full well who he was.
"I've been living in and out of Hawthorne since I was a kid, 15-17 years old, and I tell you, this was not an isolated incident, not just something that happened on June 30th," Rosby says. He thinks many Hawthorne police have been "racially profiling, breaking civil rights" for a long time. He says he's seen things such as picking out blacks and Hispanics apparently randomly and "handcuffing them, taking them out of their cars, putting them on the curb and then letting them go" and "stopping teenagers, grabbing their backpacks and throwing their stuff on the ground and kicking it."
As for the incident, before the cops cuffed him, Rosby says, "they looked rowdy, like they were going to harass me or shake me up a little bit….When they grabbed me one officer said 'stop resisting,' I said I'm not resisting. I told everyone to put cameras on me because they were saying I'm trying to resist."
As for other complaints he's heard about his conduct that day on the video, Rosby says he left the window down when he put Max in the car at first because it was a very hot day, and that he is confident his verbal command would have kept Max from harming any officer before Max was shot–and that if they had merely given him a moment to do so unobstructed, he could have put Max safely away from them.
Rosby says he isn't anti-police, though he does worry that the racial composition of Hawthorne police doesn't match the racial composition of the populace, and that that leads to occasional prejudicial behavior on the part of police. "I know all police officers are not bad. We need 'em. There are some knuckleheads out there robbing people, raping people, and we need officers, but we need good ones."
Ultimately, Rosby says, "I want justice for Max. I want the officers that did that to actually pay for that. And I want other officers trained, because they will run across this type of situation again, and what's gonna happen then? I don't people to go around thinking I'm a black guy who hates whites or hates police. I love God. I'm a Christian. But not only that, I loved Max."