Shelby Coffey III, currently the vice chairman of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., has cranked out a terrific piece for The Daily Beast to mark the 20th anniversary of the LA riots. At the time of the civil unrest, the executive editor of the LA Times became immediately concerned when a rock crashed through the window of his downtown office.
After trying without success to contact the LAPD and conversing briefly with the paper’s trapped security staff, Coffey headed down to his building’s entrance with a fellow staffer after being told looters had come into the LAT lobby. This was indeed the case:
One intruder was coming through the broken windows. I grabbed a pair of scissors and shouted, “Get out!” Luckily for me, he did… Today the scissors sit, among my souvenirs, with a window-smashing boulder from the street. My very own Rock, Paper, Scissors from the night Los Angeles exploded.
Coffey was given the scissors as a souvenir when he left the Times in 1997. Later on in the Daily Beast piece, he recalls that as he pulled into the driveway of his Pasadena home very late on riots night with a CD of NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” blaring from the sound system of his Corvette, his baseball-bat-wielding son almost mistook him for a rioter. Coffey apologizes for that night’s wrong-headed music selection, blaming it on sleep deprivation.
[Photo of Coffey courtesy newseum.org]