GIVING A VOICE TO THE COMMUNITY
On June 24, 2005, Deputy Jerry Ortiz was shot and killed by a lone murder suspect, Jose Luis Ortiz, who was a member of the Hawaiian Gardens’ gang. In March of 2007, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
After the murder of this officer, a Barrio Hawaiian Gardens’ gang injunction, put together by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, went into effect in the city in 2008. Its intent was to rid the city of all gang activity and prevent related tragedies and loss, but the injunction split the city. Many residents have protested that the injunction impacts the entire community and has enabled and encouraged wide-raging police harassment by the LACSD. In May 2009 over 1400 local, state and Federal law enforcement officials executed Operation Knock-out, widely known as the largest gang take-down in United State’s history and related to the Deputy Ortiz killing. Eighty-eight gang members from Hawaiian Garden’s were arrested and sentenced to federal prison.
This event brought in a landslide of community complaints against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that included many civil rights violations and unlawful acts against residents. The most simple way to describe what happened is to say that a net was put out for sharks and sadly hurt many dolphins too.
In the years that followed, these complaints flooded through the doors of The Way Out Ministries. As usual The Way Out Ministries sought ways to offer help in meeting the community’s needs. Barry and Terryl first attempted to meet with city officials and law enforcement in order to calm the community and follow a prescribed complaint process; however, both the city and the Lakewood Sheriff’s Department rejected the complaints and claimed none were ever received. Eventually the Lakewood Sheriff station agreed to allow The Way Out Ministries to be a location where the community could receive the forms and help filling them out.
Complaints continued in record numbers by the community; only this time, the staff of The Way Out Ministries listened carefully to the people, helped them to fill out the forms, and prayed with them. The forms were then hand-delivered by ministry staff to the station. After twenty-five of these complaints were denied, the ministry decided to take things to the next level. The ministry formed a grassroots community group called R.A.G.E. (Rallying Against Gentrification Efforts) This group began meeting, educating the public about their rights and organizing a peaceful protest with over 100 people on city hall.
The aim of this group was to create community awareness of the fact that there was an effort to gentrify the city with unlawful force. The efforts of R.A.G.E. received media coverage that eventually brought the Sheriff to the ministry headquarters where he heard sixty-five community complaints.
The Way Out still continually works with law enforcement agencies, city officials and the community to bring fair justice to the community.
OUR DIRECTOR/ MAYOR OF HAWAIIAN GARDENS
After much prayer and hard work Barry Bruce (director of The Way Out Ministries/ Pastor of the Gathering Church )accepted a call from the community to run for City Council. Barry won with the largest amount of votes in the city’s history in November of 2009, along with Rey Rodriguez and one incumbent. In 2013 Rodriguez and Bruce won a second term elevating Barry to Mayor of Hawaiian Gardens in 2015. Of his political career Barry says, “There are some things in a community that can only be accomplished through the political arena. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) I have discovered that this also includes being a mayor and a man of God.”