It’s been 30 years since the Los Angeles Police Department fell under serious scrutiny by the public for what many considered lackluster attempts to find a serial killer who specifically targeted Black women in South Los Angeles.
As the trial date for “The Grim Sleeper” finally approaches, HBO is preparing to air the documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper—a film that not only covers the details of those killings from 1985 to 2002 but also condemns the LAPD for the way they handled the case.
Lonnie David Franklin is the 62-year-old alleged killer who will have to answer for at least 10 deaths of women who were fatally shot or strangled during his killing sprees.
Filmmakers also explore the likely possibility that the body count for Franklin’s heinous crimes actually soars well beyond the 10-woman mark.
“Many [of the victims] were prostitutes and drug addicts,” NPR reports. “Some of their bodies were found dumped in alleyways. Despite a 911 call and eyewitness descriptions of the suspect, the police did not link the murders for years.”
Neighbors were forced to take matters into their own hands by forming coalitions and offering a reward for the man’s capture.
Despite their efforts, decades flew by without anyone uncovering who was killing the women in the area.
Many of the neighborhood activists believe the victims’ race was exactly why police didn’t seem too concerned about finding the killer.
“The police don’t care because these are Black women,” neighborhood activist Pam Brooks said in the film. “It’s not like Lonnie killed no high-pro[file] white folk.”
That’s when Brooks made a statement that serves as yet another reminder that “Black lives matter” may be a relatively new chant, but the feelings that drive the moment have been existing in the Black community for decades.
“We don’t mean nothing to them,” Brooks added. “We’re Black.”
Police didn’t even arrest Franklin until 2010, roughly 25 years after the first body was found.
Friends and family of Franklin can be seen opening up about the entire case in the documentary.
Members of the LAPD refused to give much information about the case as Franklin prepares to go to trial but they are still insisting that their efforts were not stifled because of racial bias.
“When the majority of those crimes occurred was a different time and place in Los Angeles, and the crime rate was four times what it is now,” said police chief Charlie Beck, according to NPR. “The Los Angeles police department was a third smaller than it is now. Those were very, very difficult days, and things did not get investigated to the degree that we’re able to do them now. I wish we could go back in time and fix all that, but that’s not possible to do. But I will say that I’m extremely proud of Robber-Homicide Division. I think they did a world-class job in that investigation.”
The documentary also features testimony from more than a dozen other women who crossed paths with “The Grim Sleeper” and were fortunate enough to still be alive to talk about it.
They recalled Franklin making them feel uncomfortable and inviting them over to his “nasty” home.
Now that the ordeal is over, residents are thankful to see the English filmmakers in their neighborhood showing a clear interest in the story.
“I was shocked,” Brooks told NPR about the documentary. “I was amazing, because these were two [English] boys who cared enough about these Black people’s lives. It was like, ‘Wow.’ “
Franklin’s trial is set to begin some time in June.