Jan. 27, 1961: Matt Weinstock has an item about folk music featuring singer Joyce James and guitarist Bill Fernandez. One of their songs is David Arkin’s “The Klan,” about a cross burning in East L.A.CONFIDENTIAL TO MURIEL AND FAYE: Try Alaska. The men are plentiful and the nights are long.
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Through the 1950s, Police Officer Ector A. Garcia became a minor
celebrity for producing sketches of crime suspects that were
astonishingly accurate. But he wanted the excitement of being on the
streets and that's what he got.
Garcia and his partner, Detective Jose L. Castellanos, were working homicide March 5, 1959, when they got a call that a gunman had gone on a deadly rampage at an East Los Angeles restaurant and was probably heading for the home of his estranged wife.
The gunman ambushed the detectives as they escorted the woman and her uncle to safety, killing Castellanos instantly. Although Garcia was struck by a shot that "seared across his eyes," the police artist was able to return fire, killing George J. Arevalo, 2844 Whittier Blvd.
"We always knew he would do something like this," Arevalo's wife said. "He would go crazy every time he drank. Last March 27 we separated because of his drinking. He told me when he left he would come back some day and kill the children and me."
Lying in the hospital, perhaps blinded by a killer's gunfire, was the last thing Garcia must have imagined when he began his career as an artist. Born in El Paso, he graduated from Woodbury College in 1949 and worked briefly as an editorial cartoonist at a Seattle newspaper. After a short time with a Los Angeles printing company, Garcia decided to join the Police Department. He had no idea of becoming a sketch artist, but the job slowly emerged as department officials realized his talent for producing drawings from witnesses' descriptions.
Evidently he was quite talented and in one demonstration for a magazine story, Garcia produced a sketch of "Dragnet's" Joe Friday based on a description given by a woman in the department's Research and Planning Office. One of his most successful drawings was that of Gaylord Hammond, who was being sought in an attempted rape. When Hammond was arrested, officers found that Garcia's sketch was virtually identical to Hammond's mug shot. Garcia also provided sketches of the nonexistent attackers in the Marie "The Body" McDonald case.
But all of that was before he was assigned to homicide; before that night in March 1959 unfolded tragically.
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That evening, Arevalo, 42, had gone to Bill's Place, a restaurant at 506 E. 9th St. where his friend Mary Loera was manager.
"He was drunk," she said. "I told him to get out. He left but returned in a few minutes with a gun. He aimed it at me, said he was going to kill me and fired." She fell to the floor, wounded in the arm, as another customer, Carlos Carranza, wrestled with Arevalo for the gun. Arevalo broke free, went outside and when Carranza followed, Arevalo shot him to death.
Police staked out Arevalo's room on Whittier Boulevard, and Castellanos and Garcia were sent to the home of his estranged wife at 716 N. Bonnie Beach. They were escorting the woman and her uncle, Alex Verdenas, to their police car and planned to take them somewhere safe when Arevalo ambushed them.
Arevalo shot Castellanos in the temple, killing him instantly, then fired again, hitting Garcia in the head and Verdenas in the chest. Garcia, despite being struck in the eyes, killed Arvealo, shooting him once in the head and once in the chest from 50 feet away, The Times said.
Although his right eye was destroyed, the doctors saved his left eye and after that he wore a eye patch. In November 1959, Garcia was honored with a Purple Heart during a ceremony in the City Council Chambers recognizing officers who had been killed or wounded in the line of duty.
Garcia returned to being a police artist and published a book of his work, "Portraits of Crime," in 1977. He retired about 1981 and went to work for a private security firm, but continued doing sketches, including some of fugitive Nazi Dr. Joseph Mengele. Garcia died Sept. 27, 1987.
Batista Death Plot Laid Here
When Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba last week, a fantastic plot by an American war hero to assassinate the dictator died in the planning.
The initial secret meeting between the much-decorated World War II Marine and agents of rebel chieftain Fidel Castro was held here in Los Angeles 14 months ago.
And the reason the scheme was never enacted was because of the indecision of the rebels themselves.
Details of the plan were revealed to me today.
The ex-Marine "soldier of fortune" who contacted Castro's 26th of July movement here and proposed to shoot Batista personally is Guy Louis Gabaldon, a Silver Star winner for valor on the Island of Saipan.
According to his award citation, Gabaldon, 32, captured more than 1,000 Japanese in the fighting. Then, still in his teens, he conducted a series of lone-wolf forays into enemy territory to bring back prisoners before he eventually was wounded and evacuated.
In 1957, a network television show was devoted to his exploits and currently a motion picture is being planned on his life.
The assassination plot which Gabaldon presented to the Castro agents was basically this:
He would go to Cuba as a "tourist." Capitalizing on his "war hero" reputation, he would attempt to get "in" with military and civil officials in Batista's government and, finally, to reach the well-guarded dictator himself.
Maps and diagrams of Batista's offices and his residence were reportedly brought from Havana to Los Angeles by rebel couriers and studied in great detail at meetings between Gabaldon and Castro agents.
Additional plans which laid out the route by which Gabaldon would reach Havana, the hotel where he would register, and methods of his keeping contact with the underground were also reportedly ready to be put into effect.
For a period last year, there was almost daily contact between movement leaders in Cuba, Miami and Los Angeles.
Why the rebels never gave the scheme the "go" signal still isn't known.
One problem, supposedly, was money. It's possible that Gabaldon wanted more than the rebels felt they could afford.
Then there's the question of what effect Batista's assassination by a foreigner would have on the Cuban people. And would the dictator's death automatically assure Castro's rise to power?
At one point, an alternative plan, to be masterminded by Gabaldon and carried out by two fanatics willing to sacrifice their lives for the rebel cause was also allegedly discussed.
Gabaldon, one of seven children, was brought up in East Los Angeles. At the age of 11, he left home. He was raised by the parents of a Japanese-American school friend of his until, in 1942, they were herded into an internment camp.
Then, barely tall enough to meet the height requirement, he enlisted in the Marines. The knowledge of Japanese which he had picked up from his "foster parents" aided him immeasurably in his one-man raids on the enemy.
After receiving the Silver Star for his "impossible" achievements, he was quoted:
"I will keep going out and hoping I'd get killed and get a medal, so they could send it home to show people I did something good."
Following his discharge, he worked variously as a fisherman, truck driver, pilot, TV repairman, farmer and interpreter. In addition to English, he speaks Japanese, Russian and Spanish.
Married, with three children, he is self-employed in television repair work and charter flying.
609 E. 2nd St. in 1938, above, and the neighborhood via Google street view, below.
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Above, D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" at the Criterion, 7th and Grand. Yes, that's a Klansman, for those who have never seen the movie.
Ruben Salazar, from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive (Collection 1429), Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA
Above, the news story on the death of Ruben Salazar, by Charles T. Powers and Jeff Perlman. Below, a tribute to Salazar by the late Frank del Olmo, Aug. 24, 1980.
"I think he often wrote his columns explaining things like 'Who is a Chicano and what is it that Chicanos want?' as much to clarify things in his own mind as he did to clarify them for his Anglo and other readers. And one of the saddest things about his death is that Ruben died never having fully answered many of those questions for himself, or for the Chicano community.... I know he was not a Chicano saint. But I know he was not just another Mexican American, either. " --Frank del Olmo, Los Angeles Times
Feb. 6, 1958
This was supposed to be a simple story, a story about second chances: A 75-cent crucifix saves the life of a teenage thief who is shot in the chest. Lying in his hospital bed, he exclaims: "I'm gonna reform!"
But life is rarely so simple. Instead, it's a story of East L.A. gangs, violence and murder.
His name was Elias Alvarado. He was 17 years old and lived at 3773 Princeton St. On the night he went into the Jewel Theater, he was on parole from the Fred C. Nelles School in Whittier with arrests for burglary, auto theft and assault with a deadly weapon.
According to an usher at the theater, Elias and three friends stole a purse belonging to Delia Gross, the wife of the theater manager, Loren Gross. The usher said he chased the four youths to the lobby, where Elias pulled a knife.
"I'm a very religious guy," Elias told the Mirror. "I had a beautiful gold crucifix but I lost it. Then about two months ago an old man came up to me in Laguna Park in East Los Angeles and sold me this one for 75 cents. I'm gonna reform. I've been religious before but what happened tonight taught me something. I'm gonna be even more religious from now on."
It's a nice story of redemption and second chances.
But it's not complete.
Elias said something else. He denied taking part in any purse-snatching. "All I know is that I heard a dame yelling and somebody grabbed me," he said. "It's dark inside a movie house, y'know."
At the time, that didn't seem to bother anyone. As far as The Times was concerned, Elias lived to repent and got a second chance.
But someone else also got a second chance that night: The usher at the Jewel Theater who shot Elias with a .32 semiautomatic.
His name was Lorenzo Castro. He was 18 and lived at 9212 Abbotsford Road, Pico Rivera. On the night he shot Elias, he also had a record of arrests: for driving a car without the owner's permission and for carrying a concealed weapon. He too had been paroled -- from a state forestry camp.
You see, in the 1950s, the Jewel Theater, 3817 Whittier Blvd., was a hangout for the White Fence Gang, one of the city's oldest and most violent Eastside groups, according to The Times. In 1952, a couple of gang members jumped an off-duty LAPD officer when he asked them and their girlfriends to stop drinking and swearing. According to a 1953 Times story, the White Fence Gang hung out at the Fresno Street Playground, which was on Fresno near Olympic Boulevard. (I'm assuming it was about here).
Lorenzo wasn't charged with shooting Elias, but after that he had been harassed by the gang, he said. "Ever since that other time the White Fence Gang has been giving me a bad time. They've been pushing me around the theater," he said.
He said that on Feb. 23, a Sunday, some White Fence members had harassed him at the theater. On his 6 p.m. dinner break, Lorenzo and a friend, Ruben Ramos, 20, cruised East L.A. and at East 6th Street and Grande Vista, Lorenzo supposedly saw two of the gang members who had harassed him, police said.
Lorenzo and Ruben forced Gerald De La O, 14, and George Rodriguez, 13, into the car and drove up to Soledad Canyon. Once they arrived, Lorenzo told the two boys to get out of the car and start walking. When they were about 15 feet away, he ordered them to turn around and shot them. As they lay on the ground, Gerald kept moaning while George whispered for him to be quiet. Hearing the moaning, Lorenzo returned and shot Gerald again; then he fired at George, but missed.
Gerald died, but George, although wounded, survived by pretending to be dead. Once Lorenzo and Ruben left, George walked to get help and flagged down a truck driver.
Police said Lorenzo had prepared an elaborate alibi to cover his story in the shootings. According to The Times, police and sheriff's deputies said gangs played no role in the fatal kidnapping. Neither suspect was a gang member, police said. George's family also said he wasn't in a gang. The Times says nothing about whether Gerald was a gang member, so we don't know.
Lorenzo was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Ruben was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years to life. He was deported to Mexico in 1962. A Catholic when he entered prison, Ruben became a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in 1971 asked the Governor's Board of Executive Clemency to allow him to return to the U.S. so he could have his marriage recognized at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City.
Did Elias really pull a knife the night he was shot? Did Lorenzo have a reason to shoot him or was he just a gun-crazy youth? We don't know because The Times never wrote anything further about Elias Alvarado, George Rodriguez or Lorenzo Castro. We can only hope that they took advantage of their second chances.
Feb. 3, 1938
Paul Wright collapses on the witness stand ... A car plays "Nearer, My God, to Thee" when it reaches 60 mph ... A member of the LAPD Intelligence Unit surrenders in the investigation of the Harry Raymond bombing ... Germany's Marshal Werner von Blomberg resigns after marrying a woman who is "socially impossible," clearing the way for the rise of Nazi leader Hermann Goering ... Japanese Foreign Minister Koki Hirota's informal remark that a state of war exists between his nation and China prompts U.S. senators to demand that President Roosevelt invoke the neutrality act ... And longshoremen's union leader Harry Bridges is in court ... On the jump: 25-cent highballs at Al Levy's Tavern.
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Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts charges Police Capt. Earle Kynette* with attempted murder ... An Assembly committee issues more than 100 subpoenas in an investigation of vice, graft and corruption in Los Angeles ... Caltech engineers discuss the possibility of sending a rocket into space. On the jump: Wedding bells for King Zog of Albania?
* Some Times stories misspell Kynette's first name--Earle--as Earl and I have repeated that error.
This is getting complicated. Police Capt. Earle Kynette has been cleared by Police Chief Davis and has promised to capture whoever attached a bomb to Harry Raymond's car. Kynette has already been charged with wiretapping Raymond's phone. Now he's in hiding because Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts wants to charge him with attempted murder ... I have never head of the Wives of Spanking Husbands Club, but I can't believe it was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, never mind the Daughters of Spanking Parents ... And the buffalo nickel is doomed!
On the jump, a judge halts formation of a grand jury in the Raymond case ... And the Los Angeles Fire and Police Protective League accuses Kynette of trying to wreck the union. I can't help but think 1938 must have been a fabulous year to be a reporter in Los Angeles.
You're reading this correctly: Police Chief Davis insists the LAPD had nothing to do with the Harry Raymond bombing, and Capt. Earle Kynette, who is out on bail on charges of wiretapping Raymond's home, says he'll have the culprits in custody quite soon ... An update from the Spanish Civil War ... And a racehorse owner denies being involved in a bookie operation at Santa Anita ...
Mayor Frank Shaw says he has the "utmost confidence" in the LAPD's investigation of the Harry Raymond bombing. He also says there is no evidence of police involvement in the blast ... Allegations of police corruption in Arcadia ... The U.S. Embassy in Nanking protests actions by Japanese soldiers--to no avail ... How to keep women happy ... And a man attempting suicide jumps from the eighth floor of the Pacific Electric Building, 610 S. Main, but is uninjured when his fall is broken by the wire mesh in a glass skylight.
Historic note: One of Mayor Fletcher Bowron's first acts after defeating Shaw in the 1938 recall election was to demand the resignation of more than 100 Shaw appointees.