By Charles Lam
By R. Scott Moxley
By Taylor Hamby
By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By LP Hastings
By Taylor Hamby
League continued the activist life outside of prison. He has worked with All of Us or None, a group centered on incarcerated and released prisoners and felons. A 2005 Workers World article quoted League as saying, “When people fight back, this place is set up to make the most extreme examples of them. . . . If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you’re a legal slave in the United States.”
He’s also active in the campaign to free Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, a Black Panther convicted of murdering a security guard in 1969. “I’m proud of Arthur [League]—he’s done a lot of good for himself,” Lynem says. They recently talked for the first time since 1977. Neither mentioned Sasscer.
Now living in the Bay Area, League declined the Weekly’s numerous requests for an interview but has maintained his innocence.
* * *
Nelson A. Sasscer Park is a small oasis in Santa Ana’s downtown civic center, a triangle of trees and walkways squeezed between local, state and federal government offices. It’s not the most accessible public space, sitting at the meeting point of four major streets. But Sasscer Park is popular, especially during hot days, when its ample shade, massive fountain and sloping canals draw people looking to cool down.
A tiered marquee displays the park’s name to the commuters who zip by. But there is no plaque dedicated to Sasscer, who left behind a 21-year-old widow and is buried in Maryland, his home state. His only other public monument is outside the SAPD station a couple of blocks down, a bas-relief of the young officer looking downward but smiling.
Every May, his name is read in the roll call at the Plaza of the Flags naming of every Orange County law-enforcement official killed in the line of duty. A Santa Ana policemen dresses as Sasscer, down to his badge number: 112.
“You pay tribute to them at the time they pass away, then it becomes a memory,” Walters says. “Unfortunately, as time fades, the memory fades.”
Lynem doesn’t want this tragic episode forgotten, but for different reasons. He regrets fostering the anti-police sentiments that led to the officer’s murder. “I wish it never happened,” he says. But “it’s part of [Orange County’s] total black experience. It’s the truth. It’s what happened. Sasscer’s murder is painful to talk about. But it affected a lot of people. It is what it is.”
Assuming there is some element of truth in the story, if I were the principal of that school, I would lynch the parent who threatened me with violence, and his son who bullied other students would get thrown out of school.
My mother was one of the original 12 jurors in the League trial. She was eventually excused because of medical issues. But she has always maintained that she believed League was set up and that one of the Tice brothers was the trigger man. I remember, as a 13 year old, going to the trial and watching the proceedings. It was a fascinating introduction into the criminal legal system.
As someone who was involved in this incident allow me to say this story is about 90% BS and the rest,the names of those involved, is correct. I think many of those mentioned in the story "Have visions of Grandeur". Many of the statements mentioned are inaccurate and some must have injured themselves while patting their own back. To those reading this story be assured it is fiction much like a dime novel. The facts in this story have three things correct. 1. Sasscer was the victim, 2. League was the shooter. 3. Santa Ana was the city. After that well it was in 1969. Maybe that is # 4.
Great story. My parents were on that Human Relations Commission and I remember, even though I was 4 at the time, them discussing all the unrest going on. It's nice to be able to read this as an adult and get a better grasp as to what was really going on.
This article was really interesting. I am glad I have always been surround by GOOD people who grounded me with TRUTH.
Very, very well done piece. I've lived in Santa Ana for about 13 years now and have never heard of this story. Good perspective...good writing...very much appreciated. I'd love to have a historical piece on Santa Ana on a monthly basis or something. I think a lot of people would find it very interesting.
Great job on this story. This little piece of Santa Ana history has been all but forgotten. It was almost surreal to read that Everett Dickey was the prosecuting DA on this case.
I was at the courthouse the day Judge Dickey ordered Geronimo Pratt released. It is still one of my fondest memories and happiest days.
Thanks again for writing this piece.
Great insightful article. I just love reading about local history and you have a knack on how to do that, Gustavo.
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