*Damian Monroe “Football” Williams never intended to make history, or revolt. But he wanted to make a name for himself, in South Central Los Angeles.
In the decade leading up to the 1992 Riots, Williams sat on his porch and watched the happenings between Florence and Raymond, on 71st street. What he saw was the swagger of a brotherhood; bound by secrets, flashy cars, and fast cash.
Eventually, the high school football star ventured off the porch to get a closer look.
“I wanted a part of [it.] So, I joined a gang… which I thought was everything, at the time – and it took me on a real rough journey in life.”
The journey started with an initiation to the Eight Tray-Gangster, Crips; a South Los Angeles gang; renowned nationwide for its ruthlessness.
“It was like a job, I got up every morning, pressed my clothes and I went out to be the best at it,” Williams said.
Williams looked up to the gangsters, the hustlers, and the old men on the street and developed thickened skin. He proved value and loyalty to the top respected of a brotherhood and gained ghetto-notoriety running with — legends say — one of the fiercest urban gangs of America’s 90s.
“We were all misguided, he said.”
April 29, 1992
That formidable Wednesday, the 18-year-old’s mob-persona took center-stage and played a notorious role at the intersection of Florence and Normandie.
It was three hours after the Rodney King verdict, in which a Simi Valley jury found four white Los Angeles police officers not-guilty for the brutal, video captured, beating of Rodney King, a black man.
Williams threw a brick, striking Reginald Denny, a white man, in the head after rioters pulled Denny from his truck; they beat him, senseless.
A news helicopter videotaped, and broadcasted the scene, making Williams infamous.
That day, Williams achieved not only a name for himself, but a nefarious position in American history.
25 years later, the 44-year-old reflects on his life, his role in the riots, and tells who he is now.
“It was like a toxic bomb was inside of my mind and at that particular time I was saying to myself how can we get some get back – from what’s been happening to us all these years in South Central.”
Still, if he could go back in time:
“No. [I would not have been a part of it.] I would be far from that intersection. I want the world to know that – that individual in 1992 no longer exists, he said.”
The L.A. Four
The L.A. Four – Williams and Watkins, Antione Miller and Gary Williams were South Central residents arrested, and charged in connection with Reginald Denny’s beating in the first few hours of the 1992 riots.
Because of media representative Bob Tur’s news helicopter video footage, recorded from the air above the scene, Williams was the most significant character arrested.
Williams charged with attempted murder, aggravated mayhem was sentenced 10 years, for his role in the riots. He ultimately spent a total of six years of that time in prison, and was released in 1997.
Did the L.A. Four start the riots?
“No, we didn’t start the riots,” Williams said. Chanting-protestors surrounded officers on the scene, and when an officer threw someone over a fence and then assaulted a man trying to help, the crowd grew angrier. Outnumbered, the police left the scene – reportedly to get equipment to help handle the crowd. They never returned.
Where are they now?
- Antione Miller, and Gary Williams
Miller was shot and killed Feb 1, 2004 during a nightclub shoot out, in Hollywood. Officials said his murder may have been gang related.
And Gary Williams is recovering from a long-term drug addiction, according to friends.
Reginald Denny, moved to Arizona and continued to drive trucks. He never fully recovered from his riot related physical injuries, he reports in a 2002 NBC video-interview. He said he doesn’t hold grudges, or hatred; blacks were responsible, but other blacks saved his life.
Though Watson participated in the beating, placing his foot on Denny’s neck, he also stopped rioters from continuing to hurt Denny, said neighborhood friend Roosevelt Tellis, founder of “Safe Passage,” an organization that help South Central L.A.’s youth move safely through their communities.
Damian ‘Football’ Williams today
To Georgiana Williams, Damian is her baby boy. Though still imprisoned, he has a surprising demeanor, an easy smile, and he enjoys reading. As a small-boy, Williams spent summers in Vicksburg Mississippi; so, he speaks with a southern drawl and hospitality.
Williams has read “Yoga for beginners,” “The Spirit of Man,” and “Denmark Vesey: The Buried Story of America’s Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It.” His influences include Nelson Mandala, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Prophet Muhammad.
“I went through a great transformation, throughout this ordeal – I have been able to purify my mind and my heart. By doing that I’ve taken on great ideas and I have great drive to make things better in the community that [I helped destroy,]” Williams said.
Damian ‘Football’ Williams is currently on year 13, serving a 46-year-sentence in Calipatria, a California State Prison.
“I want love and healing to come back to the community,” Williams said.