This book details the true events of the Charles Soper family that resided in a nearby public housing project. I didn’t know that the father struggled with mental illness and drugs, or that, at times, he would act out violently against his wife and their young children.
The housing project was across the street from a large recreational facility which I managed. The park was considered to be an escape from the drudgery of their daily low-income lifestyle, as well as a safe haven for the neighborhood children. Residents of all ages looked up to me as the quasi-authority of the City of Carson. In reality, I was a 22-year-old “kid.” This was my first real job in terms of supporting myself financially.
During my tenure at the park, I came to know Mrs. Soper and especially her son, Roy, who was seven when I first met him. The little tyke would call me his “protector,” and would run to me whenever anyone would tease or bully him. But I never believed Roy was in actual danger, nor did I anticipated the shocking events that followed.
The story is told against the backdrop of my exploration of my sexuality. I grew up wanting to be married and have kids. I was raised that way. But despite my attempts to establish a romantic connection with women, I never happened. My journey of self-discovery included consulting psychologists, participating in the early days of computerized heterosexual dating, researching homosexuality, engaging both female and male prostitutes, and attending an intensive EST-like seminar. I was not afraid or embarrassed to be gay; I just wanted to be certain that I was gay. When it finally came to me, it was like an epiphany—I was a healthy, normal gay man, and proud of it.
As I began to participate in the gay lifestyle, I became painfully aware of the beatings and murders of gay men in my community of Long Beach, CA, often perpetrated with impunity. I thought about Roy and realized that these gay men were also vulnerable and innocent. I surrendered my comfortable, closeted lifestyle and publicly vowed to stop violent assaults against LGBTQ people. I was extremely fortunate in connecting with the new Chief of Police who welcomed me as the official liaison from the gay community to partner with him to stop hate crime. My three-prong approach to stopping gay-bashing, as described in the book, was a success, and I offer it to LGBTQ communities across the country.
Barack Obama wrote to me, “Jack … Our journey as a nation depends, as it always has, on the persistent efforts of people like you – compassionate, caring, and open-minded – who stand up in defense of the notion that love is love and that all of us, no matter who we are or who we love, are worthy of equal dignity, equal respect, and equal protection under the law. … That is the vision for America that Michelle and I share. And I want you to know we will continue standing alongside you.”
Targeted Age Group:: 18 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book tells of tragic real-life events that I witnessed as a young man, which caused me to mature into a "gay hero" of sorts. I would clarify, an imperfect gay hero. What I experienced in my twenties, drove me to take on the systematic crime of gay-bashing and stop it.
City of Carson, California
May 18, 1973, 4:08 a.m.
“Unit 1-5-2, check out a disturbance at the 23000 block of Catskill Avenue. Complaint by an anonymous caller.”
“10-4. Dispatch, is it a 10-16?” Deputy Daniels asked.
“Unclear at this time if it’s a family dispute, 1-5-2.”
“Unit 1-5-2, be advised, a second caller has reported possible shots fired on the west side of Scott Park.”
“10-4, is this at the same residence on Catskill?”
“Unit 1-5-2, and all other units in the vicinity of 23505 Catskill Avenue, please respond to a shots fired report at that location.”
“Unit 1-5-2, what’s your 10-20 and ETA?”
“Dispatch, 213th and Lynton, three minutes.” Deputy Daniels was not familiar with the Scott Park area; it was not his usual area of patrol.
“Dispatch, 1-5-2. I’ve arrived at Scott Park,” stated Deputy Daniels, “but I don’t see the address or any disturbance.” The entire area was void of streetlights, so it was difficult to make out details.
“Unit 1-5-2, be careful. May be an active shooter situation. Wait for back up.” For police, this is an adrenaline moment. They don’t occur often. All these officers, the one at the scene and the ones rushing to get there, are all hyped up.
“All units responding to 23505 Catskill Avenue, be advised, a relative of the household reported from another location. The husband there is considered violent. Be aware there may be young children in the house.”
“10-4, Dispatch. Unit 1-5-2 reporting. I now see several people in their front yards, pointing to … Hold on, Dispatch.” Deputy Daniels turned on his spotlight and directed it at the house in question. “Yes, pointing to 23505 Catskill.”
“10-4. Hold back. Sergeant Lopez is on his way to take command.”
“Dispatch, lights in the house are on, but I see no people or movement inside.”
“Dispatch, what’s the ETA on the backup?”
“They should be there about now, 1-5-2. ETA on the ambulance is seven minutes.”
“10-4, Dispatch. Backup is here. Four units have arrived. I’ll confer with Sergeant Lopez. Roger and out.”
The sergeant took command, instructing deputies to block the streets with their cars. Two deputies hurried around to the rear to secure the back door. Other units arrived and blocked both ends of the street. More residents emerged from their homes to watch the commotion in their public housing complex. “Everyone, go back into your homes and stay away from the windows,” the sergeant shouted to the gawkers.
He and four other deputies positioned themselves to each side of the front door, guns drawn. “L. A. County Sheriff! Show yourselves!” the sergeant yelled. “Surrender! Come out with your hands up!”
Still nothing. The sergeant sent Deputy Mills around the back to check it out. He returned promptly. “Sergeant, I could see a woman in a bedroom through the window, soaked in blood. I think she’s dead,” Deputy Mills said. “The other window had the curtains drawn.”
Sergeant Lopez slowly reached up to turn the doorknob, but it was locked. “L. A. County Sheriff! Show yourselves!”
The sergeant motioned for a deputy to kick in the door. Deputy Grays bashed it in with one hard kick. Two deputies entered, one went right, the other left. Seeing no immediate threat, they cleared the other rooms.
“All clear, Sergeant!”
They lowered their guns. Deputy Sanders, new on the force, stumbled from the back bedroom into the living room, dizzy, his face ash white.
“What is it, Sanders?” the sergeant asked.
“Sarge … back there … in the left bed …” Sanders’ body spasmed violently as he vomited. “Back there … Sarge …” He pointed to the back bedroom and vomited again.
The sergeant and other officers walked inside to find a little boy and two girls, each on a bed. All three had been shot in the head. The younger girl, maybe eight years old, clutched a doll. Blood splatter lay everywhere. On the floor, at the foot of the boy’s bed, was a man, mid-thirties, also shot in the head.
Another deputy escorted Sanders outside. He wept openly. “I can only think of my own daughters,” he said. His two girls were about the age of the victims. He needed to hug his kids. He felt so afraid for them, and yet so blessed that they were alive and safe in their own beds. Erasing the images from his mind of those bloody little girls and the boy would take a while.
“Sarge, along with this male,” the deputy nodded to the adult male on the bedroom floor at their feet, “there’s an adult female in the other bedroom. All shot in the head.”
Sergeant Lopez winced sharply at hearing the grisly details.
“Probably a mom and dad and their three kids,” the deputy said.
Lopez sighed in despair.
“Looks like some gang members wanted to make a point by assassinating the entire family,” the deputy said.
“We don’t know that, Will.”
“All these people shot execution-style? In the head? Probably a drug deal gone bad. What else could it be?”
“Let’s see what homicide comes up with.”
Five Years Earlier
San Pedro, California
I lived with my parents, Vince and Beatrice, and two older brothers, Frank and Vince Jr., in San Pedro, a coastal community in Los Angeles. I grew up a loner, not by choice, but my mother kept me firmly pinned under her thumb. I was the “baby” of the family, plus her insecurity allowed her to trust no one.
Starting when I was seven years old, my oldest brother would slug me hard. I was teased, punched, slapped, and bullied by various older kids. Students at school would punch me, and ruffians I didn’t even know would gang up on me. It didn’t happen every week, but often enough to learn I needed to fend for myself. By the age of 14, when I was more muscular and able to fight back, and did, most of the violence against me ended. The upside of being beaten, if there was one, was learning to think and do for myself in those early teen years, to be self-reliant. I suspected a full expression of freedom would have to wait a few more years until I could free myself of my mother’s control. I loved my parents, but I craved to be an individual. I reckoned I could manage my own life better than anyone else.
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