Remembering the L.A. Riots: Palmdale Plant 42 worker was shot four times

Carl Hall, an aerospace engineer at Airforce Plant 42 in Palmdale, was shot four times on April 30, 1992 - day two of the Los Angeles Riots.

PALMDALE – April 29th marked the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots, six days of racially-charged violence, looting and fire that ignited when a jury acquitted four police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

From April 29 to May 4, 1992, thousands stormed the streets of South Central Los Angeles, beating and killing at random, and literally setting the city on fire. When the smoke cleared, 63 people were dead, and more than 2,000 people were injured, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Among the critically injured was Carl Hall, who works at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.  On the second day of the LA Riots, Hall was shot four times throughout his body and left for dead on a Crenshaw sidewalk as chaos raged around him. The immediate aftermath of the experience left Hall with an intense fear of African Americans. However, the past two decades have brought a new perspective to the aerospace engineer, who says he has forgiven his attacker and overcome his fears.

“I feel triumph about where I am right now,” Hall said. “I came through this not too terribly disturbed, and I’m not prejudiced, as some might think I should be.”

Hall still vividly remembers the sequence of events that led up to the shooting. Hall said on the first day of the riots — April 29, 1992 – he was at work when he caught a live newscast that showed Reginald Denny being pulled out of his truck in South Central and beaten to a bloody pulp by a group of thugs.

“It looked like a movie or a bad commercial,” he said. Hall worked in Hawthorne and lived in Downey at the time, and he had to drive through a bad part of Los Angeles to get to and from work each day. Hall made it home safely on the first day of the riots, and said he spent most of the night glued to the television watching the riots unfold.

On day two of the riots, Hall said his wife tried to discourage him from going to work, but he shrugged it off.  On his way home from work, he stopped off on Crenshaw Blvd.

“I thought maybe I better go to the credit union and get some money before I go home because I might have to stay home the next day because of the riots,” Hall said. His credit union was closed, so Hall headed back across the street to where his car was parked.

“I was probably the last person in a group of people crossing the street to get to the parking lot when I saw a verbal altercation going on between two cars,” Hall said. “A black guy was hanging halfway out the passenger window yelling at a heavyset black lady in a Cadillac, just berating her.”

Hall said he made eye contact with the irate man, inexplicably setting the man off.

“He yelled out, specifically to me, ‘all you white motherfu—-s are gonna die!’” Hall said. He said he ignored the man and continued crossing the street, but before he could get to the sidewalk, he heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire.

“I felt something in my left leg, like a searing hot paper clip,” Hall said. “Another bullet went through and came out my other thigh… and as I was looking down seeing what’s going on, a bullet came from my back, underneath my shoulder blade, out of my chest… I actually saw the bullet coming out of my chest and splattering through my shirt.”

Hall said that bullet just missed his heart. Another bullet grazed his testicle (though he didn’t know it at the time). After taking the four bullets, Hall crumpled to the ground and commanded himself not to panic. He saw a security guard across the street and tried to get his attention.

“I was trying to yell out ‘somebody help me! I’ve been hit!’ and I said it about three times, but nobody could hear it,” Hall said. He said he sat against the curb, his shirt soaking in blood, and prepared to die. Then the heavyset black lady, who had been arguing with the man earlier, suddenly made a u-turn and headed his way, Hall said.

“I’m thinking this is racial deal and she’s gonna finish me off,” Hall said. “I closed my eyes just waiting for her to run her car over me.”

Instead, the lady jumped out her car and began yelling at people to help him, Hall said. He said the lady ripped off his tie to use as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

“Unbeknownst to her, she was actually cutting off the circulation right on my wound,” he said. “It hurt so bad, but she didn’t realize it. She was trying to do the best she possibly could.”

Hall said he closed his eyes in fear the whole time the lady was helping him.

“In retrospect she was like an angel to me,” Hall said. “I don’t even know her name or anything, I just remember she was a heavyset black lady. You have to remember, it was race-oriented at this point, so I thought all the black people were trying to kill me.”

Hall assumes his “angel” contacted emergency services, and eventually paramedics came to scene and began to work on him. He said, soon after, he was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He said he opened his eyes en route to the hospital just long enough to see that a black pilot was commanding the helicopter.

“I thought to myself, I’m actually going to die,” he said. “I started saying prayers.”

He said he was safely taken to the trauma center at Harvard UCLA in Carson, and immediately went into surgery.  He was in the trauma center for two days, and then in the hospital for another three days.

Hall said he was released on May 5, 1992, but his recovery was far from over. He said he underwent physical therapy for a year and a half and saw a psychologist to deal with his mental anguish.

“I was paranoid,” Hall said. “Every time I saw a black person I thought they were going to finish me off.”

He said the terror lasted for about five years following the shooting. Then gradually, he began to work through it with the support of his family and friends.

Today, Hall still has some of the physical reminders of April 30, 1992. A bullet remains lodged in his left leg, because it would cause too much trauma to remove it. Two spots on his right leg mark where the bullet entered and exited. And he’s scarred from his mid bicep up to his heart.

For Hall, his mental scars have all but healed. He said he has not only overcome his anxiety of black people, but he has forged many strong friendships. In fact, Hall said if he were to meet his shooter today, he would forgive him.

“I feel triumph about where I am right now,” Hall said.

Good friend and coworker, Johnathon Ervin, said he only recently found out about Hall’s story.

“Everybody knew where they were at the time [of the LA Riots],” Ervin said. “But to know that he had such a personal and life changing role in it, it really surprised me.”

Ervin said, given Hall’s demeanor today, he never would have known that his coworker was once fearful of black people.

“Carl is a kind, thoughtful, positive guy,” Ervin said. “You would never know that he’s had this type of personal struggle based on his optimistic attitude… I think that’s testament to what type of character he has.”

Hall credits his mental recovery to his Christian upbringing.

“I think I’m a survivor,” he said. “I’ve come a long way with the support of family and friends.”

  8 comments for “Remembering the L.A. Riots: Palmdale Plant 42 worker was shot four times

  1. Palmdale_Steve
    May 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I have two memories from the riot, TV memories.

    1) Aerial shot of a large woman loading her POS Hyundai with looted goods from Gemco over in Culver City, with her young kid along for the ride.

    2) Korean merchant going all Mel Gibson with his handgun shooting at rioters. Nothing more exiting and great than a pissed off Korean with a handgun standing his ground.

    Hey come the “big one” down below, how long will it take for road blocks to be put up on the 14 keeping the South Central folks out, or at least disarming them?

  2. Nicole Dawson
    May 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Carl Hall, you are to be commended for your strength and moral character. Not too many people could face a situation like you have and come away with such a forgiving heart.
    People like you give us all hope for the day when race is no longer an issue, but character is the only thing that matters. You sound like a wonderful guy and I would like to meet you!

  3. Gary
    May 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Let me get this straight, Mr. Hall. You stopped in the middle of a KNOWN riot zone, where ALL HELL was breaking loose, near where Denny was beaten THE DAY BEFORE, to of all things GET CASH OUT OF A CREDIT UNION? Come on!

    Even the credit union was, smartly, closed. And your wife gave you, smartly, advice to stay away.

    This story–unfortunate as it is–sounds more like curiosity (almost) killing the cat than anything else.

    • Alex
      May 6, 2012 at 6:23 am

      Really? Blame the victim for some piece of trashes shooting someone for their race?

      So the black kid who got lynched was asking for it by whistling at a white woman? A girl wearing a miniskirt was asking to be raped practicly because of it?

      Give me a break, your logical is stupid and it sounds like you are trying to give the criminals a free pass Gary, because this guy “Should have known better.”

  4. Maria
    May 5, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I still shake my head in amazement. White guys get off and black people burn down THEIR OWN town. Not very smart in my opinion and soon after the riots those same getto trash people started moving to the A.V. Tragedy all away around.

    • HMR
      May 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

      really blows me away that people were so ignorant that they destroyed their own town.. seems to be a pattern for some tho..

  5. Kathy
    May 5, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Great article, thanks for publishing this amongst all the race-baiting nonsense articles being circulated about the Riots/Trayvon. This article was honest and uplifting.

  6. Yo Mama
    May 5, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I remember blowin bubbles out the window of the concrete mixer I was driving during the riots. A guy says to me, “There’s a war goin on in LA, and you’re blowin bubbles?” I told him that the war is in their hood, bein done by the people who live there themselves. If they’re that stupid, so be it. Then I asked him where he wanted the truck. On with my day. That was a pathetic display of revenge ON THEMSELVES! Made no sense then; makes no sense now regardless of the issue. It didn’t do much to persuade anyone they were right. I’m glad Homey’s alright, and forgiving. I’m not sure I could’ve done that…

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