Cemetery near Compton pillaged, LA sheriff’s department investigating

Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery is the final resting place for roughly 40,000 people, many of them veterans and people of African-American descent.

Volunteers at one of the first African-American cemeteries in Los Angeles say they are grieving the loss of pieces of Black history.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has launched an investigation into the theft of over 100 bronze name plaques for the deceased and a plaque honoring Black World War II troops from Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery in Carson.

Lead volunteer Aisha Woods said she believed a pipe had burst when she arrived at the cemetery Saturday morning, but closer inspection revealed that bronze nameplates had been pried off the mausoleum. Also gone was a 1944 bronze plaque honoring the Black troops, dedicated by heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery - Los Angeles
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a series of thefts at cemeteries in Carson and Compton, including at Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/ABC7)

“It’s just terrible, 1944,” said Woods. She said the plaque was to honor “fallen soldiers that were disrespected everywhere else but still fought to make this world, especially the U.S., a better place, for me, being African-American and everybody else of diversity, who they were fighting for, and now it’s gone.”

She said thieves also attempted to steal a 1934 bust of Abraham Lincoln at the site.

Lincoln Memorial Park is the final resting place for roughly 40,000 people, Woods said, many of them veterans, from the 1800s and later, and of African-American descent.

The extent of of destruction and the weight of the bronze lead her to suspect more than one individual was involved.

Volunteers want people to visit and check on their family members’ graves so they can compile a list of stolen name plaques that need replacing.

They’re holding a community meeting at Lincoln Memorial Park this Sunday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m., and say they hope to raise enough funds to hire security guards and staff to maintain the cemetery.

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“When Black veterans came back, these two cemeteries were the only two available,” said Vietnam veteran Benjamin Walker Sr., referencing Lincoln Memorial Park and Woodlawn Celestial Gardens in Compton, which experienced similar thefts of bronze plates and plaques.

City of Compton Councilman Jonathan Bowers confirmed that similar thefts also occurred lately at Angeles Abbey Cemetery. He added that the city council is considering legislation to curb such crimes.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed an investigation, sharing that individuals steal the material to sell to recycling facilities for profit.

Rockaway Recycling says copper sells for over $3 per pound and scrap bronze for about $2.50, according to NBC.

“I would like to just send a message out there to any of the recycling companies that receive this: Do not take it,” said Bowers, NBC reported. “If you can get those people’s information, turn that in to the local law enforcement so we can apprehend and prosecute these people and hopefully end this reign of terror.”

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