Last updated: 6 months ago
Eula Love was a 39-year-old mother living in the West Athens area of south Los Angeles near Hoover and 120th at 11926 S. Orchard Avenue, in a neatly kept bungalow on a street of neatly kept bungalows in a proud and quiet neighborhood. Eula Love was a widow. Her husband had died of sickle cell anemia six months earlier, leaving her to raise their three young daughters and make the mortgage payment and other ends meet on $680 a month in social security benefits.
Eula Love’s $69 gas bill had been past due for as long as her husband had been dead, and when a utility worker from the Southern California Gas Company showed up that afternoon to shut it off if she didn’t make a $22.09 payment, she became irrational and abusive. When he made a move toward the meter she picked up a shovel, struck him in the arm and then chased him off the property.
While the gas man was advising his superiors and making an assault complaint to the police Eula Love walked to a nearby market and purchased a money order in the amount of $22.09. Returning with it in her purse, she was verbally abusive toward a second gas company employee that had arrived and who she found sitting in a truck at 120th and Orchard. Leaving him she returned to her house only to emerge brandishing an 11 inch-long boning knife, 5 1/2 inches of which were handle.
Next came the cops...
On Jan. 3, 1979, Eula Love was shot eight times in her front yard by two Los Angeles Police Department patrol officers. Gas company employees had sought the patrol officers’ help in collecting an overdue bill from the 39-year-old widow, or in shutting off her gas service. The officers emptied their revolvers at Love in what they described as self defense because she was about to throw a knife at them.
After a lengthy inquiry into Love’s death, the district attorney’s Special Investigations Division decided not to file charges against the officers, sparking widespread public outrage.
Eula Love was killed by LAPD officers in an extremely well known "bad shooting" in 1979. Love had threatened the officers with a knife and threw it at them when they told her to drop it. While the officers were cleared of any wrong doing, her survivors won a big settlement against the city with the help of attorney Johnnie Cochran. Love's death was the first in a long line of officer involved shootings that eventually lead to a complete revamping of how law enforcement deals with "use of force", especially in how it relates to people not armed with guns and people who are mentally ill.