Crime & Justice

Protests erupt in Anaheim after off-duty LAPD officer clashes with teens

Dozens of people, including children, were arrested early Thursday after clashing with Southern California police outside a home where an off-duty Los Angeles policeman fired a single round during an off-duty tussle with a 13-year-old boy in Anaheim. Hundreds of people had gathered hours earlier after videos surfaced showing the incident between the officer, whose identity has not been released, and a group of youths.
Dozens of people, including children, were arrested early Thursday after clashing with Southern California police outside a home where an off-duty Los Angeles policeman fired a single round during an off-duty tussle with a 13-year-old boy in Anaheim. Hundreds of people had gathered hours earlier after videos surfaced showing the incident between the officer, whose identity has not been released, and a group of youths.
Screenshot from NBC Los Angeles

The police chief of Anaheim said videos are being reviewed in the investigation of a confrontation in which an off-duty Los Angeles officer struggling with teens fired a handgun.

Two teens were arrested after Tuesday's incident but the officer, who was not named, was not, leading to a violent protest Wednesday night.

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said Thursday the continuing investigation could lead to charges against any or all who were involved.

Quezada said the incident involved an ongoing dispute between the off-duty officer and youths who walk across his property.

The 13-year-old believed the officer had cursed at a teenage girl who had walked across his lawn in the area of single-family homes, many with tidy flower beds and well-pruned trees, about 2 miles west of Disneyland, according to the Associated Press.

Michael Carrillo, an attorney representing the teenage girl, said she had "grazed" the officer's lawn when he began shouting expletives at her. Carrillo said the altercation turned physical after the boy stepped in and told the officer he shouldn't curse at a child.

"The little kid said, 'I'm going to sue you,' and then the guy thought he said, 'I'm going to shoot you.' That's when he started grabbing the little kid," Gregory Perez, 16, part of a larger group of young people walking in the area, told the Orange County Register.

A video posted on YouTube showed the officer struggling with the boy, who repeatedly denied he threatened to open fire. At one point, the teen said, "Let me go. ... I'm only 13."

One video is below (Warning: Contains strong language):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JnIv5bUoH8

Here's an alternate angle of the incident (also contains strong language):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSMv4wbHK-A

Another youth rushed the officer, who stumbled back through a low hedge, still holding the 13-year-old.

A teen then took a swing at the officer. Other kids approached, and the man — still gripping the 13-year-old with one hand — pulled a gun from his waistband, crouched and fired a shot.

Witnesses said the officer "did not discharge the gun toward anyone," Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt told radio station KNX-AM.

After police arrived, the off-duty officer put his hands up and was led away to be interviewed.

The 13-year-old was eventually handcuffed and booked on suspicion of making a criminal threat and battery. A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery and later released, police said.

A union representing Los Angeles police officers said the publicly available cellphone video shows the officer was physically assaulted by multiple individuals and sustained injuries in Tuesday's incident. The Los Angeles Police Protective League said an officer has the right to self-defense no matter the age of the offender.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Wednesday that the video was deeply disturbing, and said investigators need to explain why the boys were arrested, but not the officer who fired the shot.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said in a statement Wednesday that he was concerned with what he saw in the video, and the city is committed to a full and impartial investigation.

Protests, and arrests

Dozens of people, including children, were arrested early Thursday after clashing with police outside the home where the officer fired his weapon. Hundreds had gathered hours earlier after the videos surfaced.

The calm gathering of protesters was disrupted Wednesday night as some began vandalizing the officer's and neighboring homes and throwing objects at Anaheim police officers observing the demonstration across the street, according to a report from the Orange County Register.

Protesters then took to Euclid Street, blocking traffic before confronting Anaheim police officers in riot gear who had established a skirmish line.

Police created a second skirmish line around the officer's home.

Early Thursday, police said in a statement that 24 people were arrested: 10 men, eight women, three boys and three girls. All are misdemeanor charges for variations of failure to disperse, resisting arrest, and battery on a peace officer.

What happens next?

The investigation being conducted by Anaheim police will be forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney. The DA will determine whether or not to file criminal charges against the officer.

However, since no civilian was struck by gunfire during the incident, it will not be reviewed in the same manner as other police shootings, DA Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder told KPCC.

"It would be similar to how we would handle a civilian case, although of course extra care would be put in to see whether a police officer committed a crime,” Schroeder said.

At the same time, the LAPD are conducting their own investigation into the tactics and use of force of the officer. Unlike the criminal investigation being conducted by the District Attorney, the LAPD is conducting an administrative review.

"There is no more important investigation regarding the actions of a Los Angeles police officer than his or her decision to use deadly force," Assistant Chief Michael Moore said.

The LAPD’s investigation, which is already underway, will examine the officer’s decision to draw and display his weapon, and his behavior and use of deadly force. Ultimately, the Board of Police Commissioners will make a final call and determine if the force and tactics were in or out of department policy. That could take months, and Moore asked the public for patience on Thursday.

This story has been updated.