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.

Former OC Black Panther head Daniel Lynem, originally accused of the murder of Officer Nelson Sasscer
John Gilhooley
Former OC Black Panther head Daniel Lynem, originally accused of the murder of Officer Nelson Sasscer
League in an undated photo before his arrest for the murder of Santa Ana Officer Nelson Sasscer
League in an undated photo before his arrest for the murder of Santa Ana Officer Nelson Sasscer

*     *     *

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.”

garellano@ocweekly.com

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