An autopsy of Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca's fall from grace:
At approximately 10 A.M., on Tuesday, January 7, Sheriff Lee Baca stepped up to a temporary podium in the front courtyard of the Monterey Park headquarters of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. After a short, emotional preface, he glanced at his notes and, running his fingers along the words as he said them, announced that he was leaving his position as the head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department—effective almost immediately. “I am not going to seek reelection to a fifth term as sheriff, and I will retire at the end of this month,” he said to the crowd of reporters, each of whom had scrambled to be there after getting word of Baca’s impending arrival. “I was elected to four terms, and I will go out on my terms.”
PUBLISHED: Feb. 27, 2014
LENGTH: 46 minutes (11665 words)
Johnny Lewis was a Hollywood actor who starred in series such as The O.C. and Sons of Anarchy. He soon began exhibiting troubling behavior that led to a grisly murder:
In late October 2011, Lewis lost control of his Triumph motorcycle near Twentynine Palms. At the hospital the staff checked him for signs of a concussion, but he was allowed to leave after tests came back negative. Michael Lewis, however, noticed that his son’s behavior was becoming erratic and bizarre. Had the accident shaken something loose in his brain? he wondered. The elder Lewis scheduled two MRIs, which Johnny refused to undergo. Friends picked up on Lewis’s change in behavior, too. During an acting class in December, he kept speaking in a vaguely British accent. “I asked him about it because I was confused,” Tucker says, “but he shrugged it off.” By the new year Lewis’s behavior would turn from curious to dangerous.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 30, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5380 words)
Revisiting the Northridge earthquake two decades later. Before Hurricane Katrina, it was considered "costliest natural disaster in U.S. history". As recalled by Richard Andrews, director of California’s Office of Emergency Services at the time:
I took a turboprop plane with Wilson and the head of the California Highway Patrol from Sacramento to Los Angeles. We knew there had been damage to the freeway system, so on the flight down we were poring over maps of Southern California and trying to locate the places where we knew there would be freeway interruptions. We began talking about the strategy that we would eventually employ later that day of fast-tracking contracts to get the debris cleared and the repair work under way on the freeways. That proved to be one of the smartest things we did, because not only did it shorten dramatically the time to get the freeways back up and running, it also sent the public a signal that somebody was in charge and taking action quickly to address some of the major problems.
After we landed in L.A., we boarded an LAPD helicopter and took an aerial tour. We saw the damage to the Nordstrom out in Canoga Park, the freeway collapse at the 14/I-5 interchange and along the I-10 toward Santa Monica.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 14, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2810 words)
A profile of Maria Elena Durazo, Los Angeles's most powerful labor leader:
Just how much influence does Durazo have in Los Angeles? Anyone who wants to build anything big—a hotel, a skyscraper, a sports stadium, a rail line—must first go through her and the County Fed, providing assurance that the project will create “good union jobs.” In the exceedingly rare instance that a nonunion project does get approved by the labor-friendly city council, it can face protests and even litigation. Developers are said to be frustrated that a single interest group has so much clout, but nobody is willing to speak openly. “I don’t know any developer who would go on record saying anything that would antagonize María,” a consultant told me.
“She’s one of the foremost power brokers in the city—there’s no question about that,” says Jaime Regalado, the former head of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs. “Call it a fear factor, call it a respect factor. Those who make decisions in the public sector have to listen to her.”
PUBLISHED: Dec. 23, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6682 words)
A look at mob boss "Whitey" Bulger's last days while living in an apartment complex in Los Angeles:
Catalina Schlank, who is 90, has lived at the Princess Eugenia since moving there in 1974, a decade after arriving from Argentina. To her the pair had a storybook quality. “They were nice neighbors and courteous with me,” says Schlank. “They were elegant. You could just picture them as a young couple.” She remembers how Greig would place tenants’ mail on their doorsteps, since the letter carrier usually dumped onto the floor whatever didn’t fit into the tiny boxes. Schlank still has some of the notes Greig gave her, written in tall, clear cursive letters, to express appreciation for the occasional pieces of fruit or a pocketbook the older woman had given her. “Many thanks for the American Hero stationery.” “Hope you have a great month. (March already!)” Bulger had written thank-yous as well. Schlank found him nothing but a courtly, caring figure of a man who insisted on carrying her luggage should he see her with a suitcase and who once, without warning or explanation, came over and enthusiastically hugged her.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 23, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5621 words)
This week's picks include the Washingtonian, Newsweek, Los Angeles Magazine, The Morning News, The Hairpin, fiction from Electric Literature and a guest pick by Elise Foley.
The writer, who has written about the notorious crack kingpin Freeway Rick for nearly two decades, profiles Ricky Ross once more as Ross attempts to legitimately hustle his way back to success:
"On the streets he once flooded with drugs, Freeway Rick is hawking weaves. A staple of the African American cosmetology industry, the weave—or 'hair integration' piece—inspires cultlike reverence: a beauty secret that transforms an age-old preoccupation into a declaration of fabulousness. Rick has no training in hair care, no affinity for it either, but he knows that weaves cost a fortune, more than the average customer can sanely afford. A 3.5-ounce bundle, depending on length, retails for $150 to $175, and most women need several bundles to achieve a full, versatile coif, which means $1,000 or more to have the whole thing anchored and styled. In Freeway Rick’s brain, that adds up to opportunity. 'It could be milk, tires, fertilizer—I don’t care,' he says. 'They’re just products.'"
PUBLISHED: May 22, 2013
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8295 words)
A profile of Father Gregory Boyle, who launched Homeboy Industries 25 years ago to help formerly gang-involved men and women by providing them with job training, therapy and a strong, positive community:
"'The beauty of Father Greg's approach is eternal, unrelenting hopefulness for those young people,' says Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment. 'The curse is that it’s terrible for the balance sheet of a nonprofit, and it really can wreak havoc. Most nonprofits function with a very clear sense that resources and dollars are a constraint. They turn people away, put them on waiting lists, and send them to other programs. The money dries up and so do the services—end of story.'"
PUBLISHED: May 21, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7426 words)
Our favorite stories of the past week, featuring The Nation, Los Angeles magazine, and more.
PUBLISHED: April 27, 2013