Monday night, hundreds of partygoers descended on a mansion on Mulholland Drive, allegedly owned by an absent Australian soap opera star. Houses like that rent out for occasions for very high multiples. Mulholland is a beautiful and windy street, dotted with big, huge houses with lots of land. This house was high above Beverly Hills. Living up there is perfect if you never need to push a stroller, run to the store for milk or drive home late at night. It's a nightmare when your kids are 16-year-old drivers.
The Los Angeles Police Department started getting calls about noise, traffic and crowds around 7 p.m. Calls continued throughout the night. The police came to tow away the Lamborghinis that were blocking the road, but many more partygoers arrived by bus. They moved inside. The police left.
The cover story was that it was a "belated NFL draft party" to celebrate the player(s) who had been drafted. And virtually every source I found bought it — without checking. The draft happened in April.
Now it is believed to be a party given by the powerful gang 8-Tray Gangster Crips.
Now you can start wondering whether it was racism, conscious or unconscious, that led to the calls. A party with hundreds of black partygoers, none of whom appear to be celebrities or billionaires or famous sports stars (according to the millions of views), is not something that happens often, and buses only come for bar mitzvah parties. No doubt some, or many, of the callers reached for their phones because they were scared of the partygoers, not of COVID-19.
Large Los Angeles parties with white people also draw attention, like the Los Angeles sheriffs' maskless bar party last weekend, supposedly for first responders, attended by two Los Angeles Police Department officers; like the overcrowded wedding with crowds mulling outside (easy to break up); or, perhaps most relevant, YouTuber Jake Paul's huge house party in Calabasas last month, which has generated fulsome investigations, new party rules and widespread outrage.
The difference is no one has been killed at those parties. This one was different.
Those who feared that gang members and thugs would use the protests as a cover to come to Beverly Hills and Brentwood and commit crimes might be relieved that, actually, they came to party.
But not too relieved.
The shooting occurred around 1:15 a.m. You can hear it on the tape: what sounds like two rounds, 20 shots in all. One dead, two hospitalized with gunshot wounds, two released after treatment.
The LAPD is treating it as a gang-related shooting. The party, according to the police, was put on by a well-known gang.
Before you start criticizing the police, as some of the neighbors have done, answer this question: What could they have done?
Police at least have a chance, and clear legal authority, to break up unlawful gatherings outside, as long as there are enough officers. But two or four or six officers breaking up a crowd of hundreds inside a private home, some/many of them armed, is not something they should try unless people are in imminent danger, unless shots are fired or lives are threatened. The risk of a bloodbath is too great. Innocents would die. Officers would die. Staff people making the drinks, cleaning glasses, cooking food would die. So, until the shots were fired, the police did not go inside.
This pandemic will never ease enough until there is a vaccine. We are not just polarized along lines of Trump or no Trump. My bet is there wasn't a Trumper at the party, although there were surely many in some of the other parties — in the Hamptons, say, led by the CEO of Goldman Sachs.
We are a nation polarized between those who are doing everything they can to save lives and those who figure they'll make it, so why live in a cave; between people who go to parties and those who don't.
Whose side are you on?
The neighbors have nothing to fear from the Mulholland party. The partygoers are not likely to ever be back. But virtually all of those young people have parents, siblings, grandparents. Long bus rides. A packed house. Too much to drink. Gunfire. A woman dead. And now everyone in their families are exposed to everyone they were exposed to, only their family members are more likely to die.
How can people not care?
Susan Estrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.