TALK SHOW WITH HARPER SIMON | EPISODE 8
Filmmaker Nick Broomfield Investigates LA’s Most Wanted Killer in TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER
Nick Broomfield is the maker of such documentaries as KURT & COURTNEY, BIGGIE & TUPAC, SARAH PALIN: YOU BETCHA!, and now TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER. He is the recipient of the following awards amongst others, Sundance first prize, British Academy Award, Prix Italia, Dupont Peabody Award, Grierson Award, Hague Peace Prize, Amnesty International Doen Award.
Pam Brooks was the crew’s South Central Guide and Coordinator on TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER. She currently works as a nursing assistant and caregiver.
Harper Simon is joined by documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield for a conversation about his latest project Tales of the Grim Sleeper, which investigates the disappearance of hundreds of women and the arrest of the so-called Grim Sleeper, Lonnie David Franklin, who is accused of murdering at least 10 people.
Nick shares his thesis of the film, which examines how the Grim Sleeper was able to keep killing over a span of 25 years without being vigorously pursued by Los Angeles police
“If two women were murdered in Beverly Hills, they’d have the whole place locked down and would be doing house-to-house searching,” he said.
“In this particular story, one of the survivors – he shot this woman through the chest – she miraculously survived. And she brought the detectives to the very street that Lonnie Franklin lived in, where he was then arrested 22 years later. They did nothing on the evidence that she gave them. I can’t imagine that would happen anywhere else in this city.”
Also joining the interview was Pam Brooks, a former drug user from the streets who served as a coordinating producer on the film. When asked whether she thinks the police didn’t devote more investigative efforts to the case because of the backgrounds of the victims – some of whom had worked prostitutes – Pam points out that the list of women killed was actually quite diverse.
“All the women weren’t prostitutes, there were nurses and people with good jobs – there was even one white lady on there… It was people who bought the lie from Lonnie, you know you meet somebody, and you think they’re cool, and they bought the lie.”
Nick adds that during the filmmaking process, he discovered a pervasive attitude by LAPD offices that certain people they encountered were essentially sub-human.
“Police did have this slang term, which is NHI, when they were calling in a murder or something, they would use this term, ‘I’ve got an NHI here.’ NHI stood or no human involved, and they would use that for murders of prostitutes, drug addicts and gang members. So there was that kind of attitude, and I think that attitude enabled this situation to occur.”
He adds that during a significant moment in the film, Lonnie Franklin’s own son recalls that his father had a lot of fans in the police department. “And they were kind of grateful to him for cleaning the streets. I suppose from the police point of view, they felt like well, actually it’s the tax-paying citizens that we’re serving and protecting – it’s not these people who are causing us trouble on the streets.”
Nick’s film paints the grim picture of how this most-wanted killer succeeded because of the community he preyed upon. “You can’t have a part of a city where 200 or 300 people can disappear and no one knows where they are and no one is trying to find out where they are, you know it’s like the Wild West again.”
For her part, Pam said she never imagined she’d be featured in a film and be attracting all the media attention. “But it’s amazing, my heart goes out to a lot of girls, because a lot of girls are still out there suffering.”
But she added that it’s not easy to break the cycle of living on the streets and those women have to truly have the desire to change in order better their lives. “I hope that they can see me because I am a miracle, I’m a miracle. So I hope that it gives them some inspiration that one day they can be – not do what I do – but just get their life together.”
Pam addresses another theme of the film – the way many men in the community mistreat the women. “A lot of men didn’t have a mother figure in their lives, that’s how I look at it,” she said. “Because when you’re raised by your mother you learn to respect women, period.”
She said she thinks this is also a reason Lonnie Franklin acted out violently against his alleged victims. “I believe maybe his mother, I really do believe it comes from his mother – maybe his mother was a drug addict, maybe she was a prostitute.”
Pam also shares her own story of being so fed up with living on the streets that she basically turned herself in 2008 when she saw a police car driving down the street.
“I was just tired, there was nowhere else for me to go, I was just done,” she revealed. “I was just done with me, my spirit, I just had to do something with my life, and I had nowhere to go – but to jump in the police car. And I knew if I jumped in this police car, I would get from one point to another point. I would go to jail, and have to argue with my parole officer.”
After talking with her parole officer, Pam said she knew if she was sent back to prison, she would never stop smoking crack.
“So I went into my cell and prayed, and I told God, if you take me away from these streets… I’ll do what I have to do. And I got in the program.” She completed her rehab stint, followed by a sober living facility and then eventually went out on her own and she’s remained clean since then.
Watch the full episode to also hear a discussion about the world of prostitution – which Nick has also explored in other films – and to learn his views on whether it should be legalized.