The Orange County District Attorney released a letter today clearing Anaheim police officer Nick Bennallack, who shot and killed a gang member, Manuel Diaz last summer – an event that triggered riots in the shadow of Disneyland.
The finding by the DA set off a firestorm of complaints on news and social media – mainly asserting that there was no way the DA was going to find Bennallack guilty.
But let’s take a step back here for a moment. Why would a cop go to all the trouble of becoming a cop just to blow his career by shooting some unarmed gang banger in the back? Remember that most cops join the police force for the pay and benefits, and because they can be cops without having a college degree. And cops get to retire young, with huge pensions. So why blow all of that over some pelon?
The reality is that while we think cops are here to protect the peace, they have ulterior motives. In Anaheim their real job is to make sure the tourists don’t get skittish and stop visiting Disneyland. Don’t expect the cops to solve the gang problem. They just try to keep it from coming completely unraveled.
As for Diaz, don’t shed too many tears for him. He was going nowhere fast. The young man already had a long criminal record and a cell phone found near his body was full of pictures of him throwing gang signs and posing with guns. This guy was headed for a bleak future no matter what. But did he deserve to die like this?
The quandary for cops is that they are trained to kill, not to wound. If you choose to run when they tell you to stop, you are probably toast. Gang bangers know this. Diaz probably was busting parole and didn’t want to go back to jail. Now he will live forever, in infamy.
There are of course no easy answers to any of this. There are two Anaheims. There are relatively wealthy folks up in the Anaheim Hills and down below there are a lot of working families and yes, gang bangers like Diaz. The City Council pretty much answers to the rich and the powerful. Latinos are vast in number but they just don’t vote.
The public schools in the lowlands of Anaheim are not very good – in fact most of them suck. So kids like Diaz fall through the cracks, victims of circumstances and low expectations. Lately the gang bangers have taken to killing each other with knives. I am surprised the tourists have not noticed.
So what to do? And is Disneyland part of the problem? They do create lots of jobs but they don’t pay well. Many Disney employees have to work other jobs in order to pay their bills. Sure, their kids can get into the park for free – but not alone. And the last place the parents want to be at on their off days is where they work!
Disneyland exerts a terrible influence on local politics. Their political puppets have blown millions of dollars on roads no one uses and are even now trying to build a streetcar system that will only serve Anaheim. Last year Disneyland, through the SOAR PAC, helped to elect yet another hack, Jordan Brandman, to the Council. He is now being charged with billing the O.C. Clerk-Recorder’s office $24K for a report he mostly copied off of Wikipedia. Nice.
And Disneyland supported the giveaway of millions of hotel tax dollars to a lame hotel developer, to build hotels at the failing GardenWalk center. Disneyland also spent a fortune making sure that former Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly got elected to the 69th Assembly District. He is now their cabin boy in Sacramento.
But Disneyland has no answers for the violence exploding all around them. Now, because of Diaz, the cops can’t run around shooting these kids in the back. So the gang bangers are now emboldened and are causing more grief than ever. It is a dire situation.
So what to do? Don’t look to Disneyland or the Anaheim City Council for any solutions. That same Council recently voted to not pay for an assistant to Mayor Tom Tait – the one good guy on the Council. Figures. And don’t look to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez either. She helped to elect Brandman!
Understand that none of this is about race. It is about poverty. Gang bangers make a fortune selling drugs and business is good. No wonder young people like Diaz gravitate to that lifestyle. What other future do they have? They surely don’t want to end up picking up trash at Disneyland at night, when the rats come out.
Until the tourists take note and stop coming to Disneyland business as usual will continue in Anaheim. And sooner or later some other kid will flee from the cops and probably take a bullet. Disneyland won’t be able to Hakuna Matata their way out of that…not next time. And rest assured this will happen again. It is a matter of time.