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Comment about Compton violence offends civil rights group

October 21, 2011 | 11:57 am

Photo: Seal Beach council member Gordon Shanks. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
A Compton-based civil rights group is demanding an apology from a Seal Beach council member who suggested that the shooting massacre that left eight people dead in the quiet coastal city last week would have been more likely to happen in Compton.

At a memorial for the victims last week, Councilman Gordon Shanks, 76, said, "These things are not supposed to happen here. Maybe in Compton."

Shanks later acknowledged that he should not have made the remark and his comment had been "not very nice."

Royce Esters, president of the National Assn. for Equal Justice in America, wrote Shanks a letter this week calling the comment "small-minded bigotry."

"The City of Compton is a community of wonderful people who must deal with very harsh realities of life that most in your city could not imagine. Not once in this city's history has anyone for any reason ever murdered eight people in a single act of violence," Esters wrote.

While Compton's per capita homicide rate still remains above the national average -– and certainly above Seal Beach, which had seen only one murder in the five years prior to last week's rampage -- crime in Compton has declined significantly in the past 20 years. The city experienced 24 homicides in 2010, far below 1991, when the city reported 87 killings. Residents have credited stepped-up law enforcement and a shift away from gangs in youth culture.


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Photo: Seal Beach council member Gordon Shanks. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times