The off-duty LAPD officer who fired his weapon during a confrontation with a group of teenagers outside his Anaheim home has been identified by the department as Kevin Ferguson. He is a patrol officer in the Hollywood Division, but has been pulled from the streets, according to LAPD spokesman Officer Sal Ramirez.
“He is back to work but he is on non-field duties, meaning he has no public contact,” Ramirez told KPCC. Ferguson has been with the department less than four years, he said.
The incident in Anaheim has sparked angry protests and drawn national attention, with some calling for Ferguson to be fired and criminally charged.
Video shows him confronting a group of teenagers on his lawn. He grabs one of them, who allegedly threatened to shoot him, according to Ferguson’s attorney Larry Hanna.
“The first young man has hands in his pocket and the officer heard him say, ‘I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to shoot you,’” Hanna told the Orange County Register.
At least two teenagers who were there have said that the boy actually said, “I am going to sue you,” according to the Register.
One 13-year-old boy was arrested for criminal threats and battery and a 15-year-old boy was arrested for assault and battery after they allegedly charged at Ferguson and pushed him over a hedge, according to the Anaheim Police Department.
Ferguson’s attorney said his client was acting in self-defense, and defense of his disabled father, who can be seen on the video on crutches
“He has two crutches and has a hard time walking,” said Hanna. “The officer could get out of the way but his dad couldn’t and that’s what the problem was.”
It’s rare for a police officer to be charged with a crime when they fire their weapon. A KPCC analysis found no officer has been charged in an on-duty shooting in LA County since 2001.
Off-duty shootings are a different story. Four off-duty cops were charged in the last decade, according to the analysis. But in each case, somebody was killed or wounded.
It should be noted the Orange County District Attorney will decide whether to file charges against Ferguson because the incident occurred in that county.
In the case of Ferguson, nobody was hit – a factor that plays in his favor, said Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson.
“I think since nobody was hurt, I think that prosecutors will look long and hard before they decide whether to bring any criminal charges,” Levenson said.
Under California law, the actions of an off-duty police officer are judged as if he were on duty, said Levenson. That means they have wide latitude to shoot, under the Supreme Court ruling in Graham versus Connor. These three paragraphs from the ruling are key:
- The ruling said any use of force by an officer must take into account the "severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight."
- "The 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."
- "The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation."
There are fewer such caveats when it comes to a civilian trying to show he or she committed justifiable homicide because they believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury.
“I think if a civilian did something like this, I would expect them to face some type of a criminal charge – whether it be brandishing a weapon or something more serious,” Levenson said.
LAPD brass promised a full investigation of the shooting, but warned it will take time.
“This process is not something that happens overnight,” First Assistant Chief Michel Moore told a press conference in Anaheim last week. “We need to ensure we gather as much information as exists.”