The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Harbor Division

Drug raid

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May 6, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_0506_bust_2 Saundra died Jan. 11, 1978, 40 years after she dazzled concert-goers as a child prodigy on the violin, like her mother, Frances. In her lifetime, she performed at the Hollywood Bowl with Leopold Stokowski and had roles in "Captain Tugboat Annie" and "An Old Fashioned Girl."

In 1938, when she was 5, Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Otto Klemperer said: "Unbelievable! Simply amazing! I have never heard a child play that way!" She made her New York debut at the age of 7, and continued studying and performing, and was a member of the Girl Scouts the Junior Red Cross.

Reviewing her performance of the Wiewiawski Violin Concerto No. 2, The Times said of the 11-year-old: "The child will go far. She plays with a remarkable maturity and she has developed a personal magnetism that will do much to make her a success. The test will come when she broadens her repertoire to include the deeper and less showy music, classical and contemporary."

The concerts continued into the early 1950s. And then something happened. The stories about concerts disappear. Instead, The Times reports Saundra's arrest in a drug raid. And to make research a challenge, the paper mangled her last name. Sometimes it refers to her as Mzaelle and other times as Mazelle. Only once or twice does The Times get her name right: Maazel. And yes, she was the cousin of New York Philharmonic conductor Lorin Maazel. In fact, they shared the concert stage when they were young, in that performance at the Hollywood Bowl with Leopold Stokowski.

 

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Saundra was arrested May 5, 1957, at 1345 N. Hayworth in Hollywood, one of more than 100 people picked up in a series of drug raids. One of Saundra's companions, Tyra Leal, told police: "I've been smoking marijuana for 23 years and you finally caught up with me."

After the charges against her were dismissed, Saundra, who was then 27, said she planned to get back to performing on the violin. Apparently she never did. Public records give her last name as Macaulay, so she was evidently married. The Times, which once wrote of her tremendous promise, did not note her passing.

Frances Berkova Maazel died Oct. 9, 1982. Pianist Marvin Maazel died Jan. 16, 1989.

 

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Officer-Involved Shooting

April 8, 1957
Los Angeles


 
By Larry Harnisch

O
ff-duty Police Officer Dallas W. Walters, 32, was leaving a Wilmington liquor store at 2 a.m. after visiting the clerk when two young gunmen stepped from the shadows at 1109 W. B St. and ordered: "Back into the store. Both of you."

"Oh no, we won't," Walters replied, and as clerk Albert Estrada, 19, of 1522 Island St., dropped to the pavement, the officer drew his pistol and fired.


In a moment, Walters, of 3250 N. Woodruff Ave., in Lakewood had been shot in both legs and one arm, Lucious Claude Williams, 21, of 150 E. 108th St. was dead and Charles Hawkins, 18, of 4511 Staunton Ave. had been shot in the chest.

The apparent getaway driver, Sonjalee (or Sonjale) Whitmore, 21, of 1192 E. 43rd St., picked up Williams' gun, carried Hawkins to a car and sped to Harbor General Hospital, where he left his wounded companion, The Times said. Whitmore fled from the hospital but ran the car into a ditch at 66th Street and Arlington Avenue.  He  went to Hawkins' home and told the family that Hawkins was in Harbor General. The family and Whitmore returned to the hospital and while the family was looking for Hawkins, Whitmore hid in the trunk.

Police eventually found Whitmore and took him and Hawkins to the prison ward of General Hospital. In the meantime, doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital grafted an artery into Walters' leg in an attempt to save it. Investigations were planned to determine whether Walters killed Williams or if he had been killed by gunfire from his companions, police said.

M
y big question was whether Williams, Hawkins and Whitmore were black. In the 1940s, the newspapers referred to African Americans as "John Jones, Negro," so there was never any doubt. But by 1957, this practice seems to have disappeared.

Figuring that other newspapers might shed some light on the question, I looked up the killing in the morning Los Angeles Examiner and the afternoon Herald-Express.

The Examiner had a few more details (Walters had diabetes and was the father of four children: Sharon, Larry, Pamela and Peggy), plus a photo of  officers standing next to Williams' body sprawled on the pavement and Bill Brunk's picture of Walters and his wife, Eulyne, at the hospital. Det. Lt. Ralph Weyant told the Examiner that the three men were suspected of other holdups in the Harbor area.

Then, out of curiosity, I pulled the Los Angeles Sentinel, the weekly serving the African American community. Although the Sentinel didn't identify the men as being black, the treatment of the story is a fair indicator that they were. The Sentinel noted that Williams was "still clutching a .25-caliber revolver [probably a semiautomatic-lrh] in his right hand."

Interestingly enough, the Sentinel led its front page with a story about the fatal stabbing of Ola Williams, whose body was found in the offices of Jimmie's Transfer and Storage, 1720 W. Jefferson.  And no, The Times didn't even cover it.

Police Chief William Parker presented Walters with the Military Order of the Purple Heart in 1959 for his actions during the botched robbery. Records show he retired from the LAPD on Jan. 3, 1965 and died March 21, 1983. There was no further word in The Times on the fate of Hawkins or Whitmore.

Rest in peace, Lucious Claude Williams, above left, who was born March 11, 1936, in Louisiana, and died in the streets of Wilmington, April 7, 1957, with a gun in his hand. He had just turned 21.
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