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After LA-area teen's shooting, a community lashes out

Nicole Santa Cruz and Maya Lau, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The father of a 16-year-old teenager who was shot and killed Sunday by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy stood in front of a packed church seeking answers.

"Where's the gun? Where's the gun?" John Weber asked sheriff's officials as the crowd backed him up with chants and shouts. Sitting at a table with department officials Wednesday evening were members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, their faces grim. "I know where the bullets are -- they're right in my baby's back," Weber yelled.

The death of another young black man accused of possessing a weapon was a cruel blow in this South Los Angeles neighborhood that bears a disproportionate burden of violent crime, and it comes at a time when such encounters are under intense scrutiny nationwide.

Wednesday's emergency meeting, called in the wake of the shooting of Anthony Weber in the Westmont section, was intended to quell the inevitable anger among residents who already have a fractured relationship with law enforcement. But there was little dialogue, and it only seemed to inflame tensions that have long simmered and were stoked when, in the aftermath of the shooting, officials accused neighbors of taking a gun allegedly carried by the dead teenager.

That gun is still missing.

The meeting was cut short after a comment made by a Sheriff's Department homicide captain prompted loud outrage. By Thursday, activists were calling for California's attorney general to mount an independent investigation into the shooting.

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At the meeting Wednesday night, people shouted "Stop lying" at the department officials, along with profanities. At one point, Anthony Weber's older brother, also named John Weber, stood to address the panel and asked whether there was a "flaw" in the system and whether the family and community were "due something."

"Absolutely not," replied Capt. Chris Bergner.

The comment immediately drew jeers as community members stood and began chanting. Officials, including Bergner, left out a side door. Community members and family were offended by the response.

In a statement Thursday morning, the Sheriff's Department said Bergner couldn't hear the question being asked because of the noise in the room. He heard, "Don't you think we are doomed?" the department said.

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