Watts Riots Claim the Life of LA Sheriff Deputy


DWI arrest leads to death and destruction

On August 13, 1965, the Watts Riots were destroying Los Angeles and its surrounding cities.  The violence had started on August 11 after a California Highway Patrol Officer had arrested a man for drunk driving and resisting arrest.  A crowd that witnessed the arrest became unruly and was growing as false rumors spread.  

Police officers around the Los Angeles area were called to duty, but the riots persisted.  The governor called in the national guard to restore order.  Cops and guardsmen worked for days on end to safeguard stores that were in danger of being looted and burned.   

One of these officers was Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Ronald Ludlow.  Ludlow and several other officers were stationed at Wilmington Avenue and Imperial Highway where several stores had been damaged.  

A car pulled up near the deputies with several men inside.  One of the deputies ordered the car to leave the area, but the occupants refused, and hurled racial epithets at the cops.  Deputies approached the car with guns drawn.  One deputy covered the car with a shotgun that he held at waist level.

One of the occupants, Philip Bentley Brooks, reached outside the car and grabbed the shotgun’s barrel.  As the deputy pulled back, the gun went off.  The full blast struck Deputy Ludlow in the stomach.  

His fellow deputies dragged Ludlow into a nearby radio car and raced him to Saint Francis Hospital.  He did not make it, dying in the back seat of the radio car as his fellow officers raced to save him.  

Philip Bentley Brooks was arrested for the murder of the officer.  In April of 1966, he was acquitted of murder charges by a jury.  

The riots would continue for another three days before cops and guardsmen were able to restore order.  The Watts Riots would remain the worst unrest until 1992, when the not guilty verdict in the Rodney King beatings set off nationwide riots that destroyed vast swathes of Los Angeles.  

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