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Maria Teresa Griffin, the activist from East L.A. who fought against a prison plan, passes away

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Maria Teresa Griffin, a hard-working activist from East Los Angeles, played a pivotal role in various revitalization and social justice efforts throughout the city. Despite not being widely recognized in historical archives or media clippings, her impact on East L.A. is undeniable.

Griffin dedicated 49 years of her life to Barrio Planners Inc., an architectural firm that merged urban planning with activism. She began her career as a receptionist, morphing into an architectural aid and eventually the firm’s accountant. Barrio Planners played a significant role in renovating Whittier Boulevard and designing iconic landmarks such as East L.A.’s steel archway, El Parque de Mexico in Lincoln Heights, and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

One of Griffin’s most memorable achievements centered around the prevention of a proposed prison in East L.A. During the mid-1980s, Governor George Deukmejian proposed the construction of a prison in the area. Griffin and a dedicated coalition consisting of community activists, religious leaders, and others fought tirelessly against the project. The efforts of this dedicated group led to the formation of the Mothers of East Los Angeles, of which Griffin was a founding member and long-serving treasurer. The Mothers of East Los Angeles played a pivotal role in championing the opposition to the prison project, ultimately leading to its cancellation in 1992.

Griffin passed away on January 15 at the age of 74 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was remembered by her sister, Olivia Haddock, as a devoted family member who shared her days with her extended family. Griffin’s upbringing was marked by her strong Roman Catholic faith, and she was one of nine siblings, leaving behind a legacy as a dedicated environmentalist and activist who fought for her community. Her early life and family history are a testament to her strong character and determination.

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Griffin’s journey at Barrio Planners began when she walked into their office looking for a job and quickly secured the position. She eventually transitioned into an architectural role, taking drafting classes at East Los Angeles College, and later became the firm’s accountant. Her involvement with rising Eastside politician Gloria Molina and her pivotal role in the fight against the proposed prison project solidified her legacy as a dedicated member of the East L.A. community.

Throughout her work with Barrio Planners, Griffin’s passion was evident. She shared a close friendship with Gloria Molina and played an integral part in forming a powerful resistance against the prison proposal. Her expansive network and dedication to her community allowed her to successfully rally support for the cause, ultimately leading to a significant victory for the Eastside.

Despite her illness, Griffin continued to fulfill her duties as the treasurer of the Mothers of East Los Angeles for several decades. Her determination and resilience were evident when she traveled to Maui for her niece’s wedding, defying expectations and showcasing her love for her family.

Maria Teresa Griffin’s passing marks the end of an era for the East Los Angeles community. Her contributions to various aspects of the community, her unwavering strength, and her legacy as an environmental activist and community organizer will forever be remembered by those whose lives she touched. She leaves behind a substantial impact on East Los Angeles and a legacy of resilience and dedication to social justice and community empowerment.

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Police say California deputy led secret life as member of motorcycle gang

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In a shocking turn of events, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Bingham has been revealed to have led a double life involving membership in a local outlaw motorcycle gang. Bingham, who also operated a gun store in Twentynine Palms, now faces serious allegations of engaging in firearms crimes connected to the gang’s activities, including the theft of a shotgun from his own department.

The discovery of Bingham’s illicit activities came after a lengthy investigation by gang and narcotics detectives, culminating in the seizure of a staggering 160 firearms from his residence, including the stolen shotgun. The deputy, aged 45, was arrested at his Twentynine Palms home and is currently held on $500,000 bail, with a court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Sheriff Shannon Dicus expressed dismay over the revelations, condemning Bingham’s actions as alarming and inexcusable. “The criminal behavior of this deputy not only tarnishes his badge but also undermines the integrity of our entire department,” Sheriff Dicus stated in a press release. “We will not tolerate such misconduct, and he has been placed on compulsory leave effective immediately.”

The investigation into Bingham’s misconduct commenced earlier this year, with detectives confirming his association with members of the motorcycle gang. During a traffic stop in March, Bingham was found in possession of a loaded, unregistered firearm, leading to his arrest and subsequent release.

A subsequent search of Bingham’s home yielded a cache of firearms, including an automatic assault rifle with a grenade launcher, along with silencers and paraphernalia associated with the motorcycle gang. Notably, the stolen shotgun belonging to the Sheriff’s Department was also recovered during the search.

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Formal charges were filed against Bingham on Thursday, including felonies such as possession of a machine gun, grand theft of a firearm, and participation in a criminal street gang. Each count carries an enhancement for gang association, underscoring the seriousness of the allegations against him.

Bingham’s gun store, O’Three Tactical, operated in Twentynine Palms for several years before its closure in June 2021. Financial difficulties, exacerbated by a shortage of ammunition and firearms, were cited as reasons for the shutdown, with Bingham acknowledging the business’s struggle to stay afloat.

In addition to his business woes, Bingham faced legal challenges in the form of unpaid bills and customer disputes. Despite these setbacks, his involvement in high-profile cases, such as his testimony in a double homicide trial, shed light on the intersections of his personal and professional life.

The revelations surrounding Deputy Bingham serve as a stark reminder of the importance of upholding the values of law enforcement and the consequences of straying from ethical conduct. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department remains committed to maintaining the trust and integrity of its officers and will not tolerate criminal behavior within its ranks.

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