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How One LAPD Officer Is Using Basketball to Help Kids Focus on the Future

For residents of housing developments in Watts and South Los Angeles, it can be difficult to escape gang violence. That’s why one Los Angeles police officer created an outlet for the next generation.

Officer Ivan Lombard-Jackson is with the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Division. He received a call from a resident in the Avalon Gardens housing development. The resident, Randall Lewis, handed Lombard-Jackson a bullet that was shot at him. It had only just missed Lewis.

“It shattered the whole window. Yeah. I ran,” Lewis said.

It was a close call but not his first time.

“I’ve got shot in the hand before with a little bullet that hit it to show… But it’s just living, living in South [Los Angeles],” Lewis said.

That’s why he wants a better life for his kids. Quimonie Lewis is only 12 years old, but she already knows the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence.

“My brother and my sister-in-law got shot before and my best friend slash uncle, he had got shot and died. And not too long ago my cousin got shot and died,” Quimonie said.

Housing developments in Watts and South Los Angeles are gang territories, including Avalon Gardens where Quimonie lives.

Officer Lombard-Jackson patrols Avalon Gardens regularly. It’s what he saw there that made him want to do more.

“It’s almost like… like I said, you just want to take them out of here for as long as possible,” Lombard-Jackson said.

He created the Watts Skills Academy basketball team as an outlet, a place to escape for kids like Quimonie and her siblings to just be kids. But even a short escape leaves her with worry.

“I feel like something will happen to one of my siblings or my parents or anything. Because that could have been my dad there dead,” Quimonie said.

Quimonie gets a much-needed break with the team. When she’s on the basketball court, she’s focused on playing the game.

“I feel like I can get everything off my mind,” Quimonie said.

She encourages others to play their best. This is when Officer Lombard-Jackson trades in his uniform for the title of coach. He wants this experience to teach each child on the team that there’s much more than their surroundings. He wants them to learn, connect and experience more.

“You just see smiles in here, right? You don’t see the troubles of the day, or, the troubles from last night,” Lombard-Jackson said.

It’s a mental break Quimonie needed from her daily struggles. That’s why coach Lombard-Jackson shows up for practice each time, even, if it’s after a long shift. He said he makes time because it’s more important for him to keep his team on track.



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