Christmas Eve 1951: LAPD officers Nelson Brownson and Julius Trojanowski responded to a report that minors were drinking alcohol at the Showboat Bar on Riverside Drive. On arrival, they found Daniel Rodela, Elias Rodela, Jack Wilson, William Wilson, Raymond Marquez, Manuel Hernandez, and Eddie Nora inside. All seven of the men produced identification that verified they were of age, the officers told them to leave. The men refused, prompting the officers to use force, which resulted in a fight in the parking lot. The officers were hurt in the scuffle: one sustaining a black eye while the other received a cut that required stitches.
Several hours later, LAPD officers arrested all of the men from their homes. With the exception of Daniel Rodela (who was dragged to the squad car by his hair, taken to Elysian Park, and beaten to the point where he needed two blood transfusions because of his injuries), the other six men were taken to Central City Jail. While they were being held, LAPD officers got drunk. The officers then removed the men from their cells and beat them all savagely — with as many as 50 officers participating in the 95 minute assault.
The LAPD tried to cover-up the incident, instead focusing on the fight that took place in the parking lot of the Showboat Bar the night before. When the Mexican-American community turned on the LA Times (after they posted a headline titled: “Officers Beaten in Bar Brawl: Seven Men Jailed”), the media then turned on the LAPD. Then, in March of 1952, six of the seven men were charged with battery and disturbing the peace. The testimony from the men assaulted by the police greatly differed from the testimony given by LAPD officers and others knowledgeable of the events. Some of the testimony given by LAPD officers was vague in their accounts of the events, while some even went as far as to commit perjury.
Grand jury hearings resulted in eight officers of the LAPD being indicted for the Christmas Day beatings. Five were convicted, but only one received a prison sentence longer than a year.
(Daniel and Elias Rodela, Jack and William Wilson, Raymond Marquez, Manuel Hernandez, and Eddie Nora)
Los Angeles, California
December 25, 1951