Activists in Long Beach declared victory Sunday afternoon as the parents of 22-year-old man clinging to life were finally allowed to visit him in a hospital he's been in since an undercover police officer shot him Jan. 7.
Thus, the focus of a rally Sunday outside St. Mary's Medical Center shifted from a demand that Sokha Hor be reunited with his family to calls for an end to police brutality in his name.
Here's what Long Beach Police say happened Jan. 7: undercover officers were searching for Hor, an alleged gang member, in connection with a burglary when he drew a handgun on them in an alley off East Fourth Street and Cherry Avenue. After Hor was shot, police say they found the semiautomatic handgun and two assault rifles near him.
Hor was arrested at the hospital on suspicion of several serious felony charges, including assault with a semiautomatic weapon on a peace officer. Police officials used that as justification to keep Hor under guard without visitations.
But the man's family, which hails from Cambodia, say they have received contradictory information from police about Hor's condition. His mother, Yorn Eng, claims that when she demanded to see her son, a cop told her, "We'll contact you if he dies."
Such treatment prompted groups like the Long Beach Campaign to Stop Police Violence and anti-war, pro-social justice ANSWER LA to launch Facebook pages, email blitzes and Sunday's rally to pressure Police Chief Jim McDonnell to allow Eng and her husband Heng Hean to visit their son.
On Thursday, after the rally announcement went out, the couple was allowed a half hour with Hor at St. Mary's, and police say weekly visits are being arranged. To do so, a police spokesman said, runs counter to department policy, but an exception is being made due to the sensitivity of this case.
Eng and Hean, who both lost family members to the Khmer Rogue regime, told reporters after the visit that their son, though heavily sedated, displayed movement and briefly opened his eyes. It brought them, they said. some peace of mind.
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That has soothed the anti-brutality activists somewhat, who point with pride to police officials essentially having told them their mobilization efforts worked.
"This did not happen because the LBPD had a change of heart but rather from the pressure they were feeling from the outpour of calls, petitions and support for the cause and upcoming rally," reads a message on the rally Facebook page.
ANSWER LA says it will continue fighting against police brutality: "The Long Beach Police, who claim one of the highest rates of officer-involved shootings in the entire country, must be held accountable. Only the community organizing together can stop police brutality!"