Is there any value in a photograph of a bloody murder scene in South Los Angeles? That’s the question community members and Los Angeles police are asking after one photo went viral on social media over the weekend.
The photo shows two black men lying on the ground, both of them shot. One of them is dead with blood surrounding his head, the other is lying face down. LAPD confirms the authenticity of the photograph, which was shared many times over on social media before some who posted it opted to take it down after pressure from viewers.
“As a society, I think we need to really step back and re-examine what our values are,” said Los Angeles-area social and political commentator Jasmyne Cannick.
“They’re not posting it to say we need to stop doing this to each other, they’re posting it to say, ‘Haha! Look what I saw, look what I captured on film,’” she said, adding, “That’s nothing to be proud of, nothing at all.”
Cannick’s own posts on social media lead to discussions around the country about what message the photo sends.
“When someone is gunned down in the street, that is not the time to be taking pictures and posting it on social media,” Cannick said. “People don’t ever stop to think what the families are feeling when they see their loved ones on the street.”
According to the LAPD, the photo is how some family members found out about the shooting. The picture was taken and posted before police could arrive to the scene to cover the body of 23-year-old Delshon Hayes. The second man survived the shooting, officials said, but remains in critical condition in a hospital.
LAPD Gang/Homicide Division’s Commanding Officer Capt. Peter Whittingham said the photo circulated online does nothing to help stop the violence in South LA.
“We have to find another way to resolve conflicts in the community other than by violence,” he said, adding that he believes the “Black Lives Matter” message is a good one, but not entirely heard among those who need to hear it.
“That message has been well-communicated to politicians, it has also been well-communicated to law enforcement all across the country,” he said. “And it’s a good message. I’m not sure, however, that message has also been well-communicated to the community.”
Whittingham says he believes voices need to rise up in South LA.
“That message must be sent very clearly to the community and even as they raise their voices about issues of police brutality and whatever else and unfairness and race-related issues,” Capt. Whittingham said, “above all they must also raise their voices about what’s happening in this community, loud and clear, that this has to stop.”
Whittingham said Sunday’s murder marked the 60th in South Bureau alone this year, the 46th black victim and the 42nd shooting attributed to a black suspect.
“We are killing ourselves,” he said.
Rev. K.W. Tulloss of the National Action Network said his organization worked with other community groups to get social media outlets to remove the photo over the weekend, but admits it’s difficult to erase it once it’s already “out there.”
“They put the information out to let our community know what was going on,” he said about the original posts. “But to see dead bodies in the street, and not being filtered, it wasn’t a good sight for the families.”
At the shooting scene outside a carwash near the corner of Hobart Boulevard and Florence Avenue, friends and family have come and gone all day, many still in tears, as they left behind candles and flowers for the victim. Throughout, they spoke about the effect the photo has had on them having seen it through social media.
“I got it sent to my phone,” one woman cried.
“(Someone) showed me the picture, and when he showed me he blew the face up extra big,” said another.
Some questioned at first if the photo was real. Earl Ofari-Hutchinson from the Urban Policy Roundtable said he was shocked by the image.
“The two young men, on the street, bloody, right on the corner. I said, 'Is this real? Is this photo-shopped?'” he said.
At a time when “Black Lives Matter” is a mantra head across the country, Cannick says the battle cry should reach beyond police brutality.
“Black lives don’t only matter when the police are involved,” she said. “They should also matter when it’s black on black crime. And the gunning down of two black men on a South Los Angeles street by two other black men should be just as much a concern to all of us as it is when the police kill us.”
Cannick says the use of social media among the younger generation is perpetuating a false reality.
“I hate to say this but it’s the younger generation and I don’t know if something was lost in how they were brought up, if it has to do with movies or television or what it is but there seems to be a huge gap in the area of values and morals and respect,” she said.
Cannick suggests another movement on social media: “If you’re going to take pictures, take it of the people who did it,” she said. “Why take pictures of the carnage? Take pictures of the people who did and post that online so they can get caught.”
Los Angeles police said the suspects involved in the shooting left in a white vehicle, possibly a Kia or Scion. They’re asking for the public’s help in coming forward with information.