Demanding justice for Deandre Brunston

COMPTON, Calif. — It was a bittersweet Sunday afternoon in Compton, a small city on the south side of Los Angeles. Keishia Brunston, a young African American woman, called together friends and neighbors for a backyard barbecue to raise money and call attention to the police terror that is being visited upon her community.

Brunston has formed the Justice for Deandre Brunston Campaign in response to the police killing of her 24-year-old nephew, Deandre, who was shot and killed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies that patrol Compton and the nearby area of Willowbrook on Aug. 24, 2003.

Deputies had responded to a domestic disturbance call where Deandre Brunston lived. Afraid for his life, Deandre, who was unarmed, jumped out of a second-story window and fled on foot. The deputies cornered him nearby, and handcuffed him. They then unleashed an attack dog on him, and began shooting. When it was over, Deandre had been shot a total of 22 times, and over 80 rounds of ammunition had been discharged from three police guns.

The deputies didn’t just shoot an innocent African American man; they also shot their own dog. After they realized that they had shot the dog, they called for an ambulance and airlifted the dog to a nearby veterinary hospital in Norwalk, where the animal eventually died, while they left young Brunston on the street to bleed to death.

In response to this tragedy, Keishia Brunston has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“We need people in the courtroom,” she told those gathered at the July 10 barbecue. “Sheriffs were put in Compton and they replaced the Compton police force. The sheriffs are not from our community. We didn’t get to vote on putting the sheriffs in our community. They are definitely not out to protect us. They’re out to kill us.”

Brunston pointed out that this “genocidal” policy of the police is targeting people of color. “The sheriffs are an invading army in Compton,” she said. “They are trying to close the hospital and they are trying to close the college. We need to educate the public about what is going on.”

The solution that is being put forward by the Community Coalition for Control of the Police is for civilian police review boards to be established in each of these communities. Another group being advised by the ACLU is calling for federal oversight of the police agencies involved, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

There are a total of 87 smaller cities in Los Angeles County that surround the City of Angels. If you venture into any of these communities, you quickly discover that they are reminiscent of the old South before the civil rights movement. Compton is one of those communities where police violence against law-abiding citizens goes unchecked.