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Crime & Justice

Wait Wait's Peter Sagal: Guess who I met during the LA Riots?

Peter Sagal at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, US
Peter Sagal at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, US .
(CC) Larry D. Moore

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(Excerpts from a story Peter Sagal told at an "Audible Feast” benefit for Chicago Public Radio at the Rubloff Auditorium of the Art Institute of Chicago, which he retells on this week's Off-Ramp to KPCC's John Rabe.)

On April 29th, 1992, I was at a reading of one of my plays in a theater in Santa Monica. People showed up for the reading saying, Wow, I heard people are very upset, they’re burning cars in South Central. I remember driving home that night, along that dividing line the Santa Monica freeway, and seeing the fires, stretched out in a warm line across the basin.

By the next morning, the fires had not gone out. They continued to move north. I sat frozen on my couch, and watched, on my TV, the Los Angeles Riots begin. I saw live video of looters ransacking and burning a Circuit City store, that was three blocks from my house.

Finally, a friend of mine had had it. He said, "I’m going outside, going to find out what the hell is going on." I said, without thinking about it overmuch, “I’ll go too…” We walked down to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilton, just east of the Hollywood Freeway. There was nothing. There was silence. The stores and homes around us were dark.

Then, two cars roared up out of the east. They were late model American sedans, dark blue in color. They screeched to a halt, and all eight doors flew open, and out came uniformed police officers, each of them with a hand to their weapons. The nearest officer was right in my face. He looked familiar.

“What are you guys doing out here?” asked Captain Daryl Gates.