The New York Times managed to find mitigating circumstances for ex-cop and accused killer Christopher Dorner, subject of a manhunt in California, in its weekend coverage. On Saturday, L.A.-based Adam Nagourney reported "For Some, Shooting Suspect's Charges of Police Racism Resonate – They Say Accusations Raise Memories Of Past Abuses, Despite Much Progress."
The Times, which had nothing to say in its previous reports about Dorner's praise for liberal media personalities contained in his chatty Facebook "manifesto," certainly showed respect to his (perhaps falsified) beefs about racism in the LAPD. Can one imagine the conspiratorial rants of elderly American Nazi James von Brunn, who killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in D.C., given similar respect in the Times?
For the Los Angeles Police Department, the allegations of departmental corruption and racism by a former police officer now accused of a revenge-fueled killing rampage are the words of a delusional man, detached from the reality of the huge improvements the force has undergone over the years.
“These are the rantings of a clearly very sick individual,” William J. Bratton, a former department commissioner, said Friday. “It would be a shame if he was able to rally to his cause people who remember the bad old days of the L.A.P.D.”
Yet for whatever changes the department has undergone since the days when it was notorious as an outpost of rampant racism and corruption, the accusations by the suspect -- however disjointed and unhinged -- have struck a chord. They are a reminder, many black leaders said, that some problems remain and, no less significant, that memories of abuses and mistreatment remain strong in many parts of this city.
Indeed, in posts on Facebook and in interviews, some black residents offered at least a partial endorsement of the sentiments expressed by the suspect, Christopher J. Dorner, in a manifesto posted on his Facebook page, even as they made it clear that they did not condone the violence he is accused of. Mr. Dorner, the subject of a manhunt, claimed that racism was a factor in his dismissal from the department in 2008, and that it was as endemic in the force as ever.
“We look at the police differently from the way you look at the police,” said Hodari Sababu, 56, a tour guide who has lived in the South Central section of Los Angeles for 40 years. “In your community, the police is there to protect and serve; in my community, the police are there to harass and to insult and to kill if they get a chance.”
Mr. Dorner was dismissed on the recommendations of a police board that found he had filed a false report claiming to have witnessed a partner kick a homeless man in the process of an arrest. Mr. Dorner sought without success to have the court overturn his dismissal.
Three witnesses to the arrest said that they had not seen the alleged assault; the father of the homeless person said that his son told him that he had been kicked.
Chief Beck -- and Mr. Bratton, who said he had also reviewed the file — said he had no doubt that Mr. Dorner’s dismissal was appropriate.
“That case was thoroughly adjudicated; it was reviewed at multiple levels,” the chief said at a news conference. “In the final analysis, you’ll find Dorner’s statements to be self-serving, and the statements of someone who is thoroughly unhappy with his lot in life.”
Still, in some black neighborhoods, where the case has been followed extremely closely, there was evidence of skepticism about how Mr. Dorner was treated by the department.
Ironically, the Times had previously questioned the validity of some of the manifesto, at least the parts embarrassing to liberals, in a "Lede" blog post by Jennifer Preston and Christine Hauser February 7:
Questions were raised about a later version of the manifesto that was circulating on the Internet that claimed to have sections related to celebrities, President Obama and gun control. In this section, a writer purporting to be Mr. Dorner offers support for gun control, praises the call for a ban on assault weapons and expresses dismay with the lack of respect some people have shown President Obama.
Jennifer Medina and Ian Lovett spread more validation over the killer's claims of racism in Monday's edition: "With Inquiry, An Attempt To Reassure Los Angeles – Chief Seeks to Ease Fears About the Police."
Though many say the Los Angeles Police Department has radically transformed over the last two decades, Mr. Dorner’s letter has renewed talk about the department’s history of problems in dealing with African-Americans and in investigating charges of racism in its ranks.
Late last week, Chief Beck said he believed that Mr. Dorner’s dismissal had been “thoroughly adjudicated” and “reviewed at multiple levels.” But that did little to quiet speculation in some quarters that the former officer had legitimate claims of racism.
There's still more deference offered toward the killer's views, which at least mentioned, mildly, Dorner's vilification of NRA president Wayne LaPierre (previously ignored by the paper).
But in some way, Mr. Ali said, the chief’s decision lends more credence to Mr. Dorner’s claims, which are just one part of his eight-page screed that also criticizes Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and praises the actor Charlie Sheen. (Mr. Sheen posted a video on the Internet over the weekend asking Mr. Dorner to call him so they could “figure out together how to end this thing.”)