April 28th, 2012

“I was just helping a person who was in need”

The quote in the title of this piece is from Bobby Green, one of four black people who were heroes in the LA riots of twenty years ago. But there’s no “just” about it; the acts were rays of hope in an otherwise bleak picture.

I remember these people very, very well. They are the sort of heroes that so often emerge in a crisis. Before the events transpire they usually seem quite ordinary, and yet something inside them makes them act in an extraordinary manner.

One of the things about such people is that they almost never see themselves as anything special. Typical comments are “I was just doing what had to be done;” “It was what anyone would do.” But I don’t think that most people would purposely go to the scene of a vicious attack by a mob and try to rescue the victim, as Titus Murphy and his girlfriend Terri Barnett did, and where they encountered other rescuers Bobby Green and Lei Yuille.

Two men, two women, all black, as was the mob attacking white truck driver Reginald Denny and bashing his head in with a brick in a reaction to the Rodney King verdict. Murphy and Barnett had been watching the scene on TV when Murphy had a reaction typical of those brave souls who wade into danger to rescue others [emphasis mine]:

“When this gentleman was getting beat something was just telling me this isn’t right, this isn’t what it’s all about,” he told Yahoo News 20 years later. “When he got hit in the head with the brick something told me to go down there. I just reacted.”

The details of the rescue are fascinating; I’d not read them before:

Murphy saw that Denny had managed to drag himself back into the cab of the truck, which was moving very slowly. Murphy ran to the passenger side and jumped on the running board; he saw a woman named Lei Yuille comforting Denny inside the cab. Just then, a hulking guy named Bobby Green leaped on the running board of the other side. The two stared at each other through the windows, each fearing the other was a rioter.

“I asked him, ‘Who are you? What are you going to do?’” Murphy says. “He said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I didn’t know he was thinking the same thing I was thinking. I figured I had to take him on, he figured he had to take me on. We were both over 6 feet tall. I told him I was going to drive the truck and he said, ‘I’m a truck driver.’ That was the end of that.”

Green jumped in and drove the massive truck a terrifying three miles to the hospital, with Murphy’s girlfriend Barnett guiding the way by driving in the car in front. Murphy clung to the outside of the truck for the entire journey, feigning to be a rioter by pounding on the outside of the vehicle as if he had taken it for loot.

“There were cars approaching us and swinging bats and sticks and guns and stuff,” he said. “I had to pretend that I was part of the riot so that the people in the cars wouldn’t try to take us on or try to take advantage of the truck again. I started beating on the truck like it was mine. The trick really worked.”

From his position on the running board, Murphy was also able to guide Green, who couldn’t see through the truck’s cracked windows. “Each one of us could not carry on the task without the other,” says Murphy. “Bobby couldn’t drive the truck without me on the outside. Mr. Denny was attended to from the inside [by Yuille], and we couldn’t drive the truck without Terry in the front of us.”

The result was a perfect collaboration. “We all came together as a team,” he says. “It was like it was meant to be.”

Although Denny lived, he is permanently brain-damaged.

As for Murphy, in interviews these days he says there’s only one race—the human race—and that he never though of Denny’s race when he rescued him.

And there there’s Al Sharpton, a guy who’s done plenty to foment and capitalize on a very different feeling. He made the usual calls for calm in the wake of the anniversary and the Trayvon Martin killing.

19 Responses to ““I was just helping a person who was in need””

  1. Parker Says:

    I don’t remember the heroics of these 4 brave and resourceful people, thanks for sharing this inspiring story. As far as Sharpton is concerned I will refrain from expressing my opinion.

  2. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    No comment, just a simple thanks for bringing this up.
    I’d never heard it and it’s almost like the hand of God.

  3. MissJean Says:

    I didn’t have a TV, so my images of the riots were mostly what I saw in the papers. I knew Denny was rescued, but I never knew how. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Oh, I guess that was a comment after all.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    In a just world ruled by God, and not Lucifer, Sharpton would be on the second priority list for extreme prejudicial purging come the True Revolution.

  6. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    >>> In a just world ruled by God, and not Lucifer, Sharpton would be on the second priority list for extreme prejudicial purging come the True Revolution.

    In a just world, Sharpton would not exist, having already been purged by a righteously acting “Moral Sanitary Authority”.

  7. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    BTW, along the same vein, allow me to remind everyone of Lenny Skutnik, who also did “just what everyone else would do”… except they weren’t.

    I like to think I share the characteristics of these people, but I’ve never been in that kind of situation, thankfully, where I had to put my life on the line for someone else’s.

  8. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    >>> As for Murphy, in interviews these days he says there’s only one race—the human race—and that he never though of Denny’s race when he rescued him.

    Indeed. Some people Get It, when It is MLK’s Dream.

  9. Richard Aubrey Says:

    When it happens, whatever it is, what you do is who you are at that moment. You don’t get to make yourself into whatever’s necessary. If you aren’t already…you aren’t.

  10. ELC Says:

    Yes, thanks for sharing this. I didn’t know that part of the story, either.

  11. Philip Ngai Says:

    This kind of story is one of the reasons I read neo-neocon, to know that there are some good people in the world, people who try to help when they see something wrong even though it involved risk to themselves with no material reward.

  12. Beverly Says:

    Those four people were very brave. I couldn’t help noticing in the clips that they were also well-spoken, middle-class blacks. God bless them for having the guts to intervene.

    This article, I think, is a must-read on the Koreans’ nightmare in the LA Riot of ’92, by Charles Johnson for the excellent City Journal. Here’s a taste:

    “What you call the events in Los Angeles that began 20 years ago Sunday says something about your view of the world. To Leftists and black activists, it was an “uprising”; white liberals prefer to call it “civil unrest”; many others call them the L.A. Riots.

    “But Koreans simply call it Sa-i-gu, or April 29. The date lives in infamy in the hearts of Southern California’s Korean-American population, which bore the brunt of rioters’ rage and paid a lasting price.

    “L.A.’s Korean immigrant community sustained nearly half the riots’ $1 billion in property damage; the dreams and pride of more than 10,000 Korean shopkeepers and their families were reduced to ash in the conflagration, including 2,300 predominately Korean-owned businesses in South L.A. alone. Many of those businesses never returned, casualties of the riots’ political aftermath.

    “… When the rioting began in South Central, Crips and Bloods who had been killing each other days before set aside their differences and joined forces to pillage Korean businesses. The Koreans believed they had little choice but to band together in self-defense.

    “Many South L.A. shops plastered signs reading “this is a black-owned business” on their windows with the hope of discouraging looters. In retrospect, it’s clear that the Korean stores were deliberately and systematically targeted.

    “The LAPD began arresting gang members and looters, but it lacked the jail space to house them all and opted for a strategy of containment. In certain instances, the LAPD confiscated business owners’ weapons and actually arrested some of them for fighting the fires the arsonists had set. The police argued that the Koreans’ guns threatened to inflame an already incendiary situation. …”


  13. RigelDog Says:

    Thank you for sharing this story…I did not know all of these details. To me it seems the work of the Holy Spirit, but it’s a beautiful, brave thing no matter what the “inspiration.”

  14. Book Says:

    “As for Murphy, in interviews these days he says there’s only one race—the human race—[...] ”

    You know, I like that. I wish I heard it more often from people of any race. ^_^

    GREAT piece, Neo.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Beverly: I read that the 6 people who attacked Denny (and particularly the most active ones in the group) were mostly petty criminals and gangbangers prior to that. One of them is now in prison for murder. People like that use the riots as an excuse to vent their sociopathy. They were going around attacking other people, including Asians and Hispanics. Denny was the victim who got hurt worst, I believe, and also the one caught on tape.

  16. Alix Says:

    Thanks for that wonderful story — I too had not heard those details. And I clicked on the link and watched the interview with the hero — made my day.

    Also, I live in Los Angeles and was there in 1992. I call them the L.A. RIOTS.

  17. Roach Says:

    This is a commendable story. But the main story of the riots is that minorities acted like total savages and showed hatred for the white majority, and we see this repeated in small ways on a daily basis in these various flashmob attacks, the brutality of black on white rapes and murders, etc.

  18. Artfldgr Says:

    - Arturo Carlos Miranda [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 23, was killed on April 29, 1992, at the intersection of 120th St. and Central Ave. Miranda, a Mexican-American, his nephew Valentin Moreno and another friend were driving back from a South Central park when an unidentified blue car pulled up next to theirs and someone fired a shot at the trio [with descriptions of perpettrators as “someone”, and be on the look out for “someone” is a big reason why these people are dead and their assailants not found.. ]. Miranda was struck in the chest. Inexplicably, his nephew and friend first drove Miranda home before taking him to Martin Luther King Hospital, where he died.
    - Dwight Taylor [BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], a 43-year-old African-American, was walking home from work when he was shot in the neck and killed the same night, in a drive-by attack on W. Martin Luther King Boulevard.
    - Eduardo Canedo Vela [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], a 33-year-old Mexican-American, was driving with two friends in the riot zone that night when their car broke down on Slauson Ave. Vela stayed with the car while his companions went to find a phone. When they returned, he’d been shot in the chest.
    - Anthony Lamarr Netherly,[BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] 21, an African-American, was found between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. shot in the head at the intersection of 78th and San Pedro streets. The driver who found him loaded Netherly into his car and took him to Martin Luther King Hospital, where he died in the emergency room.
    - John Henry Willers [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 37, of Salt Lake City, stopped on a busy road in Mission Hills to help some people involved in a head-on collision and was gunned down.
    - Elbert Ondra Wilkins [BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 33, was with pals just before midnight at 92nd St. and Western Ave. when shots rang out from an unidentified car driving by. One bullet hit Wilkins in the chest, ripping into his aorta. Wilkins’ friends drove him to Martin Luther King Hospital, where he later died.
    - The body of Nissar Daoud Mustafa [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] was found by demolition workers in the rubble of the J.J. Newberry department store on Aug. 12, months after rioters set it ablaze. The 20-year-old was classified as a John Doe, until the coroner, who determined he burned to death, identified him through dental records.
    - Ira Frederick McCurry [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 45, pleaded with looters not to burn down the store adjacent to his home on Avalon Blvd. He was shot through the right eye and died at the scene.
    - Police believe Meeker Mardah Gibson [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 35, had stopped to use a pay phone at a Pomona gas station when someone blasted him in the chest with a shotgun.
    - William Anthony Ross [BLACK – NOT INNOCENT – Accidently killed while stealing] was initially listed as John Doe No. 79, when his body was found in a looted and torched grocery store in Koreatown. The owner found the 25-year-old African-American’s body on May 1. He was curled up under a metal desk in the rear of the store, a large wad of cash stuffed in his pocket.
    - Howard Epstein [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], a 45-year-old Orlanda resident, was driving through South Central to check on a business he owned in the riot zone on the afternoon of April 30 when a driver pulled up next to him and shot him once in the temple. His Ford Thunderbird careened into a tree and as he lay mortally wounded, rioters robbed him and looted his car. [rather than help him – like that guy revently punched. All the other blacks laughed and joined in stripping him of his belongings and his clothing… ] He died at the scene, and when police arrived the hostile crowd forced them to tow away the car with the body still inside.
    - As the rioting raged on, Thanh Lam [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 25, continued to make deliveries to customers of his family’s small grocery store in Compton. Police believe the Vietnamese-American was stopped at a red light on Alondra Blvd. when a late 1970s or early 1980s blue Cadillac pulled up alongside him. An African-American male in the passenger seat yelled a racial slur at Lam and then opened fire. Lam was shot four times, three hits to the chest and one to the back.
    - One of the riot’s youngest victims was Gregory Davis Jr. [BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] The 15-year-old African-American boy was shot once in the forehead as he walked near Vermont and 43rd streets on April 30.
    - Police found the knife that was used to stab Adolpho Morales [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] to death, but they were unable to lift prints from it. The 37-year-old’s body was found on W. Pico Boulevard.
    - Louis Amari Watson [BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 18, was with a group of people at the corner of Vernon and Normandie avenues when someone shot him in the head.
    - John Doe No. 80 [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], is a white male, approximately 35, who stood just under 5 feet tall and weighed 117 pounds. The only remaining unidentified victim from the riots, his body was found May 2 in a burned out Pep Boys on S. Vermont Ave. It appears he suffered a skull fracture, likely from a punch, before dying in the store of smoke inhalation.
    - Police believe George Antonio Sosa [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] was looting a store in Huntington Park when someone shot him in the chest.
    - Ernest Neal Jr., 27, [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED] was standing on the corner of Western Ave. and 92nd St. during the rioting when a car rolled up and someone shot him in the head..
    - Kevin Andrew Evanshen, [INNOCENT MURDERED] 24, became known as “the Good Samaritan,” after he tried to douse a Venice store as it was being looted on May 1. He climbed onto the roof and was hosing down the flames when he fell through. Firefighters later recovered his charred body; whoever set the blaze is guilty of felony murder.
    - Police believe Wilson Alvarez [NOT BLACK – NOT SO INNOCENT MURDERED], 40, was beaten to death by a throng of (Blacks) stick-wielding looters after he threw stones at them. [idiot!]
    - The body of Carol Ann Benson [BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], a 43-year-old African-American woman, was found on Harbor Freeway near downtown L.A. Police believe a hit-and-run driver struck the South Central resident and that her body had been dragged underneath a car.
    - It was three weeks after the riots ended that a worker from a nearby business found the body of Juan Veron Roberto Salgado [NOT BLACK – INNOCENT MURDERED], 20, in the rubble of a burned out clothing store, Collective Merchandise, on Main Street. The coroner reported the cause of death as smoke inhalation and burns and it was ruled a homicide.
    Police say all the cases above remain open. But with the passage of time, evidence is lost forever and witnesses fade from the reach of prosecutors. Authorities privately acknowledge the possibility of solving these homicides, and bringing to justice the people who committed them, become more remote with every year that passes.

  19. Jim Kearney Says:

    Thank God for these men and women! Lights in incredible darkness shine brightest. YES, Rwanda could happen here. Sharpton was trying to spur riots in NY when thjs happened. He warned of “A Long Hot Summer” if Guiliani was elected. And I remember Crown Heights. 3 days of murder and looting while incompetent racist Mayor David (Tennis Anyone?) Dinkins said “Let them vent.”. And affirmative action hiree Police Cimmissioner, “Outta Town Brown” stayed in LA, tending his “sick” momma.
    When I made it to Paris to wait for a plane back to NY for my cousin and FDNY Brothers, I went to the American Church and wept in the arms of another American New Yorker. She wept in my arms as i wept in hers. She happened to be
    black. We were the same color that day. Red White and Blue.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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