Twenty-five years after the Los Angeles Riots engulfed Los Angeles, the Kiwanis of La Cañada La Crescenta-AM Club hosted guest speakers Don Manning, a retired L.A. City Fire Chief and La Cañada Flintridge resident, and California Highway Patrol officer Jeff Strobel.
Manning shared his experience of April 29, 1992, the start of three days of rioting. He spoke of the unrest that broke out in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four police officers involved in the Rodney King beating, when members of public safety departments worked bravely to respond to the violence. One of them was Strobel.
By 7 p.m. that night in 1992, there was a rapid escalation in incidents involving fire, paramedic and police services. The LAFD, in conjunction with the L.A. Police Department, opened a command center at 54th Street and Arlington Avenue.
Battalion Chief Tim Manning (a 1977 LCHS graduate) was placed in charge of the fire service portion of the Command Center. Mutual aid was requested from the fire service throughout the state and LAFD received approximately 2,000 firefighters from throughout California.
During the evening of April 29 and into the morning of April 30, LAFD personnel were targeted by rioters, some of whom fired shots at fire vehicles and rescue ambulances. In one case, a vehicle pulled alongside a moving aerial ladder truck and shot the apparatus operator, hitting the carotid artery. He was rushed to the hospital and his life was saved.
A vehicle occupied by Battalion Chief Terry Manning (a 1973 LCHS graduate) was stopped by rioters, including a man who sank a fireman style axe into the roof above the chief’s head. And as the Battalion Command team moved ahead, a window was smashed on the side of the car with a heavy metal bar. Later, they were stopped by a rioter holding a magnum bottle of champagne, which he threw through the windshield.
As the evening wore on, the situation grew worse, as LAPD forces were unable to meet LAFD requests for security.
On the morning of April 30, Don Manning requested that a representative of LAPD; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; National Guard and the CHP meet with him. He laid out what was happening to the fire service and paramedics and asked everyone in the room if they could provide assistance. Everyone’s reply was, “Sorry, but we cannot help,” until he got to the last man, CHP Chief Ed Gomez. He said, “What do you need, Chief?”
Three hundred cars with officers were on the road within the hour, escorting the fire trucks and ambulances and protecting fire stations that might come under attack. Manning said he’ll never be able to thank the CHP enough.