Michael Lawson spent Thursday morning holding back tears in front of a series of TV cameras in Leimert Park.
Unbeknownst to him, police had already identified a suspect in the brutal murder of Beverly Hills philanthropist Jacqueline Avant. All he knew was that he needed to do everything he could to get justice for the 81-year-old woman who loved him like family. So he called a press conference to talk about it.
“We just wanted the world to know how important it is to us,” – the president and CEO of the Los Angeles City League told me. That it was “a shot in the hearts of all of us.”
A few hours later, Beverly Hills police will report at their press conference that they have arrested a 29-year-old Los Angeles man with a long criminal history of burglary and robbery.
A few hours after that, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, surrounded by LAPD and FBI officers, talked about his friend Avanta, and then moved on to a series of robberies on the principle of “smash and capture” and “then return home.”
Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Steinbrook used the time in front of the cameras to send a message to anyone thinking about a crime in his city. “You will be caught and put on trial,” he said.
Garcetti used his time to reassure Angelenos that there was no cause for concern, citing the arrests of 14 people suspected of robbing shops. Police Chief Michel Moore also shouted about the impending influx of new officers.
“This is still [the] is probably the safest decade in our life, ”he said. “I am always careful when I say this because it means nothing if you are a member of the Avant family. If you are a member of the family that was attacked today. We never give up on this. We also don’t want it to explode when everyone thinks that suddenly we are seeing statistics that go beyond the real numbers. “
In other words, there is crime, and there is the politics of crime. And at the moment I am most worried about the slippery slope of the latter.
Michael and his wife Mattie McFadden-Lawson cringe at the thought of whether the wanton murder of their dear friend could be political football of sorts.
When I approached the couple on Friday morning, they told me about how they met the Avants back in 2003. This first meeting at Morehouse College admission proved to be a turning point in their lives and in the lives of their children.
“We got in touch immediately,” McFadden-Lawson said. “We said that as soon as we get back to Los Angeles, we will contact you. And since then we keep in touch. ”
Before her death, Jacqueline Avant was known to many as the wife of Clarence Avant, the titan of the music industry who helped create success for generations of black artists, from Bill Withers to Babyface to Jay-Z.
But Avant was a woman who quietly set to work to help people, especially in the black community of South Los Angeles. In addition to participating in a number of charitable councils, she was instrumental in the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willoughbrook.
“She never sought everyone’s attention. She had a life of her own, ”McFadden-Lawson told me. “And wherever she went, she was always glowing with her presence, because she was just a very elegant woman, always very well dressed, well-spoken and caring.”
As close friends, Avant and McFadden-Lawson went to tea and spent long dinners talking about books and art. Families also celebrated birthdays and weddings together.
It was the Lawsons who introduced the then Seine. Barack Obama avantam. And it was Avants who helped Obama gain a foothold in the entertainment and political circles of Southern California.
The Lawsons last saw the Avant the day before Thanksgiving. They stopped at the Avants home in Beverly Hills to deliver dessert, and ended up spending five hours together, never thinking that this would be the last time they spoke to Jacqueline.
“It’s about a woman who died in the worst possible way and is no longer with us,” McFadden-Lawson told me. “Let’s think of her in terms of all the good she has brought to the world and how she tried her best to help others with her ministry and her charity.”
She stopped and sighed deeply in disappointment.
“This is a story that Clarence and his family would like everyone to focus on.”
However, the Lawsons know this may not happen.
Across California, but especially in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, many people were on their toes long before the fatal shooting last week.
For several weeks, we have heard of robbers robbing luxury goods and chain stores, and in some cases attacks on employees. And there are also reports of people being robbed of their watches and wallets at gunpoint or being stalked home and stalked, including the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and former BET host of 106 & Park.
However, even before that, Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorneys had been criticized for their progressive views on prosecution and sentencing.
Political candidates, from those trying to become the state’s next attorney general to those hoping to be re-elected sheriff, insist that California is in chaos over such reform-oriented policies.
Law enforcement, meanwhile, is looking for reasons to increase their budgets following funding cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in many cases, calls from activists inspired by racial calculations sparked by the assassination of George Floyd.
And then came the harrowing news of Avant – arguably the loudest and saddest violent crime in Los Angeles County since the murder of rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle for Black Angelenos.
Shortly after Beverly Hills police announced the arrest of Ariel Maynor, stating that he had entered the couple’s home in Troughsdale Estates with an AR-15 rifle, a “I’ve already said” message appeared on Twitter. Maynor’s photos and videos then led the racist trolls out of their basements.
Lawsons find it hard to think about how Avant died at the house where they just spent so many hours with Avants. They want justice and punishment (because seriously, who the hell is shooting an 81-year-old woman?).
But assuming that the allegations against Maynor are confirmed, the Lawsons also see the failure in the system.
“I don’t know this man,” Lawson said of Maynor. “I don’t know history. I don’t know if I have mental health problems. I don’t know if he tried to rehabilitate himself and was pushed in the wrong direction. [or] gang membership is all we ignore. ”
These details will undoubtedly become known in the coming weeks. But in general, there is not enough money for rehabilitation or for attempts to eliminate the root causes of crime.
Case in point: According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Maynor did not have a permanent address when he was released from prison on September 1 after serving a four-year sentence for second-degree robbery with previous improvements. criminal offense. He was released on parole.
“But we don’t want this to become a battle cry of the left or the right. There is work and we have to do it, ”said Lawson. “This is a consequence of not doing this job.”