Off-duty LAPD fires weapon during confrontation with teens

ANAHEIM (KUSI) — One day after unruly protests erupted in Anaheim over video of an off-duty Los Angeles police officer firing a gun during a skirmish with a group of teenagers, the LAPD officers’ union Thursday defended the firing of the weapon as a justifiable act of self-defense.

"The publicly available cell phone video shows that our officer was physically assaulted by multiple individuals and the officer sustained injuries," according to the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

Union officials said they look forward to a "thorough and complete investigation" into the confrontation.

"There is no question, however, that when a police officer is attacked, they have a right and a duty to protect themselves, no matter the age of the offender," according to the LAPPL.

A civil-rights attorney, however, blasted the actions of the off-duty officer, and said he plans to file legal claims for damages against the cities of Anaheim and Los Angeles on behalf of a pair of teens who were present during the Tuesday afternoon scuffle and shooting. Luis Carrillo said the officer "recklessly and dangerously" fired his weapon, and Anaheim police tried to "cover up" the officer’s actions.

The war of words came ahead of a planned afternoon news conference by Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada and Mayor Tim Tait, who were expected to give an update on the investigation into the Tuesday confrontation, and into the protests that turned violent Wednesday night in response to the release of cell phone videos of the scuffle.

Dozens of people protested outside the officer’s home near Euclid Street and Palai Road, leading to the arrests of 24 people. The arrestees were 10 men, eight women, three boys and three girls, said Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.

The infractions attributed to the protestors were all misdemeanors and included failure to disperse, resisting arrest, and battery on a peace officer, Wyatt said.

There were reports that several residences and vehicles, including the LAPD officer’s, were vandalized amid the protests, but damage estimates were not immediately available.

The officer who fired his weapon is on administrative leave, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, whose Force Investigation Division is investigating the shooting and will review all video of the incident.

Two boys involved in the confrontation were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery and assault and making criminal threats. The boys were released to their parents Tuesday, according to Anaheim police.

The confrontation between the off-duty officer and teens occurred about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. Anaheim police responded to a report of a fight between a man and several boys and learned en route that the man was an off-duty LAPD officer who had "discharged his firearm and was detaining at least one of the juveniles," said Wyatt. The Anaheim Police Department also is investigating the shooting.

The video of the conflict has generated a great deal of interest. Wyatt said the video "picks up several houses down from where the initial contact was made."

For several months, the officer has been dealing with local teens walking across his lawn, Wyatt said, and the officer asking the teens to walk on the sidewalk Tuesday sparked the fight.

What’s in dispute is what a 13-year-old said to the officer. The officer said he moved to detain the teen because the teen allegedly said he would shoot the officer, Wyatt said.

The boy and his mother insisted, however, that the teen said he would "sue" the officer for injuring him. On the video, the boy is heard insisting he said "sue you," not "shoot you."

At one point, another boy barreled into the officer, knocking him and the boy over some bushes, but the officer maintained his hold on the teen. Another teen also stepped in to try to pull the 13-year-old boy away, and that teen appears to take a punch at the officer, but failed to hit him.

The officer continued holding on to the 13-year-old and as he was getting up other onlookers appeared to converge on the officer, who responded by pulling a gun out of his waistband. The teens started to back off, then ran when the officer fired a shot.

The officer continued to hold the 13-year-old until Anaheim police arrived.    

Some witnesses criticized Anaheim police for arresting two teens, including the 13-year-old, but failing to take any action against the officer
who fired his gun. That anger spilled into Wednesday night’s protests, that featured some people surrounding vehicles on a street.

The LAPD officer has been reassigned to a desk job, which is routine in an officer-involved shooting.

Tait said the city is committed to a thorough, impartial investigation of Tuesday’s shooting.

"Like many in the community, I’ve seen the video and I’m very concerned about what it shows," Tait said. "Anaheim is committed to a full and impartial investigation. Our city will move forward without delay."

Once the investigation is completed the results will be forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for review, Wyatt said.

According to the LAPD, "The complete investigation will be reviewed by the chief of police and the Board of Police Commissioners to determine whether the use of deadly force complied with LAPD’s policies and procedures."

Jennifer Rojas, community engagement and policy advocate at the ACLU of Southern California, said the organization is "deeply disturbed" by reports and video of what occurred.

"The ACLU calls on the LAPD to investigate the matter fully and take appropriate action in regard to the officer," she said.

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