How the LAPD’s first use of SWAT—a massive, military-style operation against the Black Panthers—was almost its last
It was early—way too early as far as he was concerned—on December 8, 1969, when Wayne Pharr was abruptly awakened in the gunroom of the Black Panthers’ Los Angeles headquarters at 41st and Central. The shotgun was still in his hand from when he had fallen asleep while cleaning it. He had spent most of the night exploring the sewers—mapping the nearby tunnels they would use as an escape route in case something went down.
“They’re out there,” fellow Panther Melvin “Cotton” Smith told him. “Get up.”
“Out where?” Pharr said in a daze. “It’s 5:30 in the f–king morning.”
Smith was borderline frantic, too busy grabbing weapons and ammo to argue. Pharr was skeptical but snatched…
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