As a child I watched the 1992 Los Angeles riots from the rooftop of my apartment building. I saw evil take full advantage of innocence. Martial Law had taken over my city. Days later I saw when the police were finally allowed to do their job. That was a defining moment in my life when I knew I wanted to wear the badge. Here is a narrative of the LA Riots from my perspective as a child. It fast forwards into the future when I visit my old neighborhood as a street cop.

An orange glow blazed brightly from the 12-year old’s bemused face. He stood silent and transfixed on the scene before him. Like in a dream his ears were temporarily muffled by the shock and the fear. All sound was blocked out for a sliver of time as he looked on with hypnotized eyes. Black plumes of smoke cast off of his innocent eyes like a projection on an old silent movie screen. A fiery backdrop of hellish fire roared in silence behind him, evoking curious amazement in the 12-year olds expression. The horizon of haze ascending into the skies told a muted story of anarchy and chaos from the streets below. As this 12-year old stood on the roof of his apartment building four stories up, gazing into the orange glow, the sudden shatter of business windows snapped him back into reality.

Down below, the streets he was used to playing jovial games of 3-Flys-Up and Pickle with other neighborhood kids had transformed into one of disorder and disarray. Familiar families pushed Jons Market shopping carts filled with TV’s, stereos, Nintendos, shoes and clothing. They scurried down the street with smiles on their faces as if they had just won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, only to return up the street a short time later with now empty shopping carts, ready for a second, third and even a fourth freeloading frenzy. Nothing was out of the question. A family somehow managed to fit a sofa, three tires and a cash register into one of those shopping carts! I remember the register’s power chord getting stuck on a fence and tipping over. They laughed uncontrollably as they mounted their new “belongings” back into the shopping cart then continued on with their precious family time. Back and forth the laps continued. It was a highway of thievery at the peak of rush hour traffic!

The 12-year old wondered why his friends, neighbors and acquaintances would participate in such destruction. He continued to watch…

The friendly Jons Market manager walked down the street with a bloody face, a beating from the very customers he smiled to on a daily basis. The 99-cent store owner who always smiled and greeted you in Spanish with a thick Korean accent stood in front of her store. She had her hands on her head and tears in her eyes. She was powerless while the same customers she was happy to serve everyday shattered her windows, stole her belongings and ruined her life.

The sharp clash of shattering windows from one of the many appliance stores on 8th St. drew in a mindless mob who ran from business to business, emptying the stores of everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor. The 12-year old could see the other rooftops from where he stood. Korean business owners held AK-47’s in one hand and water hoses in the other in an attempt to protect their businesses and their families. A Korean mother hunkered over her two children, genuflected and put both hands up towards the sky as if asking for answers. But there were no answers. There were no miracles. There were no police. Only lawlessness, violence and complete devastation.

It has been many years since the infamous Los Angeles Riots of 1992. I found myself looking back at my 12-year old self on that rooftop. As I drove around those very same streets, now proudly donning a police uniform and badge, I couldn’t help but have a moment. My mind flashed back to the eerie absence of police sirens. I remembered the surreal presence of military tanks rumbling down my neighborhood and the images of innocent bystanders being beaten on live television without repercussion. As I drove in my black-and-white I decided to turn onto my old street and stop my police car in front of the 8th St. & Ardmore Ave apartment building of my childhood. I couldn’t help but to look out onto the streets and picture all the ignorant violence that took place there years ago. It was a moment in my childhood that filled me with dejection, confusion and heartache. It was THE defining moment in my life that awoke my fervor for duty and justice…

And the rest, is history…

-Tom Ludlow

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves

Abraham Lincoln