The Crime of Fitting the Description

Random Lengths News | August 18, 2005
Two weeks ago, a trial ended in a hung jury (6-6, two Latinos, two Asian Americans, and eight whites) in the Long Beach Superior Court–a drama that technically began nine months previous when Jorel Evans, then 19, was arrested for "Obstructing/Delaying an Officer." In a nutshell, Jorel fit the description of a suspect in a car burglary. In fact, he’d been “fitting the description” for some time, as police have been trying to fit him and his brother for matching prison suits for the last two years.

Random Lengths followed the ordeal of the Evans family in 2003 when Jorel, a high school student, and his brother Derrick, a security guard coming home from work were arrested for robbing a nearby restaurant. The police supposedly had witnesses and positive identifications for both. They “fit the description” once their closets were ransacked for the right color clothes. But the police quickly released Jorel, who was with his father, Isiah, a postal worker, at the time. It turned out the police had been “watching them” for some time, and made a b-line for their house when called to the restaurant.

Derrick remained locked up with the general population—where he was beaten—for several months while Isiah worked to get him out. Despite the fact that police admitted their witnesses had been wrong about Jorel, the prosecution refused to question the case against Derrick, until a new prosecutor was assigned to the case just before trial and agreed to dismiss it. It’s not surprising the family filed a civil suit.

However, this particular tale began last December 2004 at 8:35pm, when Officer Broussard and partner, Officer Piro, took the call of a burgled car on Santa Cruz Street with the suspect described as a black male wearing a burgundy beanie. Just down the block, Isiah and family were moving out of their apartment, fed up with the ongoing problems with the LAPD and harassment by local gangs.

During the months leading up to the big move, Jorel's tires were slashed, believed by increasingly anti-black Latino gang members. This, in addition to receiving traffic tickets ranging from playing loud music from his car to various moving violations. The tickets were eventually paid, but somehow they still went to warrant, nearly lending additional grounds for holding Jorel.

Officers Broussard and Piro arrived on the scene ten minutes after receiving the call. According to their report, they saw two black males in the cargo area of an apartment and Jorel standing next to the U-Haul truck in front of the apartment. The officers drove around the block and stopped in front of the same building, only now 4-5 young black men were on the second level landing. One of them allegedly shined a flashlight into the police car blinding the officers. Broussard said they couldn't pursue the young black men turned suspects because of the wrap around security-gate.

The officers then parked where they thought they couldn't be seen and waited for the group to leave the building. Jorel came out of the building to the U-Haul truck before the officers detained him for the burglary and the flash light incident.

At this point, no one is claiming that Jorel burglarized a car or shined a flashlight in the officers' eyes. They can't even say that he tried to escape from police custody. Essentially he was charged with delaying an officer from finding the real suspect.

Jorel recalled events a little differently. “The cops just sort of swooped down and I went into the gate. I didn’t think it had anything to do with me,” Jorel explained. “When they told me to stop, I stopped," Jorel said. He then called for his father to come down.

The officers couldn’t open the gate, though at the time, the lock on the gate was broken. The door would have opened with a tug.

Jorel had just driven his father to pick up the U-Haul truck earlier in the evening at 5:30pm. Isiah parked the truck in front of the apartment and the family began moving out the furniture. At 7pm, Isiah left to retrieve his daughter from work. It was drizzling that evening and three young men in the building were helping the family move. All of them were wearing hats and all of them were wearing dark clothing. When Isiah returned, the boys told him the cops were watching them from up the street. Isiah sent Jorel down to lock up the truck.

Jorel just happen to be the one that went down.

“When I ran down, they had already got Jorel, pulled him through the gate and put hand cuffs on him,” said Isiah

Officer. Piro asked Jorel for his ID, it was in the house, and according to Jorel and Isiah, the officer verbally abused Jorel for not having it. Isiah retrieved Jorel’s wallet to Brouschard who recognized Jorel’s last name and asked him about the civil suit in the other case.

“We’re going to find a reason to lock you up, the officers taunted. “He’s going to jail tonight.”

Interestingly enough, Broussard’s report identified Jorel as a Dodge City Crip associate and qualified that assessment with his work on a gang task force operating in the Rancho San Pedro government housing projects. He never once claimed he was a known gang member. Jorel just happen to fit the description.

Isiah is a fiercely loving father of five who detests gangs and doesn’t seem the sort to tolerate such a thing in his household.

“There is no way I would have one living in my home, Isiah explained. “My younger brother was jumped by a gang. Twenty of them messed him up for life causing brain damage. Ever since, I’ve hated gangs– Crips in particular. “I was right there and this happened. Had I not been there, I wouldn’t have had too much to say, but I was there,” explained Isiah.

In response to a question about how he was coping, Jorel replied, “I just try to be aware. I don’t like cops at all. I try to avoid them if at all possible.”

“When he sees the police he wants to go the other way. That’s not how we should feel about law enforcement,” says his father.

Isiah puts the costs of supporting his sons in the range of $25,000 and $30,000. The case has been winding through the pipeline, undergoing numerous delays caused by their first public defender trying to link this current case with the civil suit.

Midway through trial, the judge denied Jorel's motion to recuse the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office from prosecuting the case on grounds of a conflict of interest considering that the LA City Attorney's office is simultaneously defending the civil rights lawsuit launched against them by the Evans' family.

"The prosecutor cannot be objective in evaluating the merit of the criminal case, and appears to be prosecuting Jorel in retaliation for him filing the civil rights lawsuit," Richard Wagner said in an email.

Jorel will re-file the motion to recuse and motion to dismiss to be heard on August 24, 2005.

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