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From the Blog
Dozens rally for autistic Muslim slain by LAPD
HOLLYWOOD, Calif.Ã¢â‚¬â€With local law enforcement securing the perimeter, neighbors observing from the safety of their balconies, and a crowd of more than 100 lighting candles, chanting anti-police slogans and parading with posters, Rukhsana and Muhammad Chaudhry hoped to gain closure on the slaying of their autistic son by visiting the site of his death.
Usman Chaudhry, whose 22nd birthday would have been July 16 was shot five times at the hands of an LAPD officer in the early morning hours of March 25 on a quiet residential road in Hollywood.
Usman, a fully functional autistic man, was an exemplary student despite his mental disability.
He was sleeping in the bushes when he was awoken by the officers for interrogation
Alarmed, Usman allegedly pulled a knife on the officers, prompting one to open fire after another sustained an injury, an LAPD official said. Family members and local residents who knew Usman remain skeptical and call for the LAPD to investigate the incident.
The LAPD did not notify the family of UsmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death until three weeks later, fueling the flames of uncertainty and kindling the distrust between civilians and law enforcement.
Muhammad said the LA County Coroner told him his son was handcuffed before the fatal gunshot.
"I hope to find the truth about what happened that night," Rukhsana told InFocus just before the vigil, fighting back tears. "We are seeking justice for him."
Muhammad said he hoped the LAPD could learn from their sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death.
"I hope they have better training to deal with the disabled," he said.
"[Usman] was one of the sweetest men," said Thomas Proechel, the property manager of the building that Chaudhry camped in front of.
Proechel, 50, whose brother is a police officer in Florida, said he senses corruption in the case and worries the LAPD is planning to "cover up" the truth.
"There are eyewitnesses, and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re scared to come out," said Proechel. "IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m moving out of this city because of this."
Proechel also assured the Chaudhrys he would not rest until justice was served.
The Islamic Shura Council, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union and the South Asian Network, among other civil rights organizations, sponsored the candlelight vigil, which was held June 21.
"IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sad there werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t more Muslims," said Abdullah Aljammal, 23, of Lawndale.
Family and friends were consoled by local residents who had come in contact with Usman in the past.
UsmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brother, Umar, addressed the crowd on behalf of the family, thanking the attendees for their support.
"I want to know the truth," he said. "I fight not only for my brother. I fight for all of us who lost someone," Umar said to a round of applause.
People from all backgrounds supported the Chaudhrys in their mission for justice.
Elvia Meza, field manager for the Southern California chapter of the ACLU, wrote and wielded a large white poster that read, "Asian, Latino, Black, White, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew. We Stand Together!"
"There are a lot of people who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know," said local activist Miguel Cruz. "ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why we seek to spread awareness. There is a coalition of organizations working together taking a stand against police brutality."
Candles lined the sidewalks, and a truck with an empty bed acted as a stage for community leaders and family members to address the crowd.
Pete White, executive director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, implored the crowd, "Speak up! Speak out! Speak now!"
He further criticized the LAPD, saying, "You are supposed to protect and serve us, not kill us."
Protestors chanted and wielded posters high above their heads as White said that police corruption is real and rampant.
"WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not dealing with rotten apples; weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re dealing with rotten orchards," he said.