Crime & Justice

No charges for off-duty cop who fired gun in fight with teen

In this file photo taken from a screenshot of TV news footage, protesters are seen clashing with 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.
In this file photo taken from a screenshot of TV news footage, protesters are seen clashing with 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.
Screenshot from NBC Los Angeles

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Prosecutors will not charge a Los Angeles police officer who fired a gun during an off-duty scuffle with a 13-year-old boy.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office said in a decision document released Wednesday that prosecutors would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Kevin Ferguson used excessive force. The DA called Ferguson's actions "unwise, immature and flat-out horrible" but said they did not violate the law.

The fight in Ferguson's Anaheim front yard last year was captured on two widely circulated videos that spurred anti-police protests. A total of 24 people were arrested in the protests.

Watch the official compilation of videos from the Orange County District Attorney's Office here:

Orange County DA video of Kevin Ferguson's confrontation with teens

The videos, along with others presented at a news conference Wednesday, show Ferguson arguing with several teenagers, after one of them, a girl, crossed his driveway. The DA’s office said Ferguson called the girl a derogatory name and one of her companions, a 13-year-old boy, started an argument with Ferguson. 

Ferguson grabbed the boy and said he was calling the police, claiming the boy had threatened to shoot him. The boy’s lawyer later claimed in a civil lawsuit against the county and city of Anaheim that the youth has a speech impairment and had actually said, “I’ll sue you." 

Ferguson struggled with the boy for about 16 minutes, according to the DA’s office. After several other boys tried to intervene, Ferguson pulled a gun and fired it into the ground. No one was seriously hurt.

The boy and one other teen were detained but Ferguson was not.

Assistant DA Ebrahim Baytieh said his office did not consider Ferguson’s job as a police officer in its decision. He noted that any private person may physically detain someone — and "use reasonable force to do so” — when making a citizen’s arrest for a public offense.

He said it would be impossible for the DA’s office to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Ferguson didn’t feel threatened by the youth. 

OC DA Tony Rackaukas echoed the sentiment.

“I don't believe there is anyone who watches this video who is OK with the way Ferguson handled himself. We just cannot prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt against him," he said.

The 13-year-old boy’s parents and a lawyer representing the family could not be reached for comment. But attorney R.J. Manuelian, who represents another boy who was present, said he thinks Ferguson would’ve been charged if he hadn’t been a cop.

“It sends a message that rogue officers will get a pass while good citizens come in last,” he said. 

Manuelian said Ferguson’s shot came dangerously close to his client’s foot and that the boy was so traumatized by the event that he changed schools and moved out of the county. He’s evaluating whether to file a civil rights lawsuit. 

The lawsuit filed by the family of the boy detained by Ferguson is pending. 

The LAPD launched its own investigation into the incident, but a spokesman said Wednesday the investigation has not been completed, and he wouldn't comment on its status. 

"There is no new information on Ferguson," Officer Luis Garcia said.

This story has been updated.