Did You Know...


The L.A. riots: 15 years later

By Michelle Malkin  •  April 29, 2007 09:10 PM

L.A. burning

Wow, time passes quickly. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots. Time magazine has a retrospective and profiles of the key figures, from Rodney King to Daryl Gates to Reginald Denny and the LAPD officers.

Thug Damian Williams, caught on tape beating Denny to a bloody pulp, is in jail for his participation in a 2000 murder. Rapper Ice Cube, who stoked anti-Korean bigotry in south Central Los Angeles, is now a “respectable” entertainer with a mainstream movie career. Shame. Here’s a reminder of how Korean shop owners were left to fend for themselves during the siege.

Meanwhile, many of the angels and samaritans on that day have been forgotten. Here’s a reminder from the column I wrote on the 10th anniversary:

Everyone remembers the looting, the shooting, the beating, the chanting, the burning, and the total unraveling of the seams of a civilized society. Everyone remembers Rodney King and his rationalizers for urban “rebellion.” Everyone remembers Rep. Maxine Waters spraying her rhetorical bullets of demagoguery. And everyone remembers Damian Williams, the young black thug who crushed white trucker Reginald Denny’s head into a near-fatal pulp.

But who remembers the heroes?

One of the fearless angels who tried to lift up his fallen city was the Rev. Bennie Newton. I met him once, and I’ll never forget him. Newton, himself an ex-con, ran an inner-city ministry for troubled black men. On April 29, 1992, he tuned into the TV to see brutal animals assaulting Reginald Denny on the corner of Florence and Normandie. Newton rushed to the scene. When he arrived, Denny was gone. Four other good and humble Samaritans — Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett and Bobby Green – had come to Denny’s aid.

But a gang of young black males – with Damian Williams still present – was pummeling another innocent bystander. Fidel Lopez, a self-employed construction worker, had been ripped from his truck and robbed of nearly $2,000. Someone busted his forehead open with a car stereo; another rioter tried to slice his ear off. The mobbed stripped off Lopez’s pants and underwear after he blacked out. Williams and others then spraypainted the married father’s chest, torso, and genitals black. Newton daringly threw his body over Lopez’s to stop the depravity.

“Kill him and you have to kill me, too,” Newton yelled while waving a Bible. The crowd dispersed. The minister prayed in the street as Lopez regained consciousness. When he could not get an ambulance, he drove Lopez to the hospital himself.

I later attended a fund-raiser for Lopez; the Rev. Newton, who donated more than $3,000 from his congregation to Lopez, was there. He was an ebullient man, a man who lived the Word he preached and gave the strongest hugs to strangers. “The simplest description that I can use to describe what I’ve done is the word L-O-V-E,” Newton later said. “It’s not about being black, white, Korean or Latino.” Newton, a married father of seven, died of leukemia a year after the riots. Lopez gave an emotional eulogy for the rescuer who became his close friend: “He’s an example for everyone. Hopefully, we’ll see each other again,” he said, pointing up toward heaven.

Another courageous preacher who risked his life was Wallace Tope Jr. I’ll never forget him. His death was one of the first subjects I wrote about when I went to work in L.A. Tope passed away quietly in December 1993, 19 months after the riots had made headlines worldwide. The born-again Christian street evangelist had been in a coma since being beaten by a couple of Hispanic looters. Unlike Reginald Denny, Tope wasn’t trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. He deliberately chose to enter the riot zone. He wanted to save some souls.

“He went up and confronted crowds of hundreds of people, spectators and looters, and started denouncing what they were doing and telling them how it was morally wrong,” L.A. Police Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said at the time. “His religious beliefs were so strong, he believed that mission was his life.” At a shopping mall near Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, Tope, who was white, warned a Latino thief raiding a drugstore to repent. The man responded by punching him, chasing him down with a friend, and kicking his head for several minutes until he lapsed into bloody unconsciousness.

Tope’s family and friends recounted how the former engineer had given up a comfortable life to bravely smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and spread the Gospel in East Germany before the fall of communism. One friend, Regina Spencer Sipple, wrote: “Wally Tope wasn’t a victim of the riots. Wally Tope lived what he believed and was willing to give his life for those beliefs.”

While L.A. self-destructed, two heroic men of faith – one black, one white – showed us the light of salvation. I will never forget.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Posted in: Uncategorized

Salesmanship fail: Rep. Patrick Murphy channels his inner Neville Chamberlain to pitch Iran deal

August 31, 2015 08:57 PM by Doug Powers


Honesty is the best policy

Super Sunday open thread: I’m just in it for the food this year

February 1, 2015 02:29 PM by Doug Powers


Plus whatever else you want to talk about

Hypocrisy whopper: Warren Buffett helps finance Burger King’s US tax reduction

August 26, 2014 10:24 AM by Doug Powers


“Economic patriotism”

The novels of Carole Malkin

August 15, 2014 01:51 PM by Michelle Malkin

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 3.53.07 PM

Obama admin/Israeli relations summed up in one photo

July 23, 2014 08:31 PM by Doug Powers


Reporting for awkward

Categories: Uncategorized

Follow me on Twitter Follow me on Facebook