Police in Southern California are investigating a shooting involving an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired his gun after a physical confrontation with teenagers who he said walked on the lawn of his Anaheim home.
No one was wounded, but the Tuesday afternoon incident, which was recorded and shared widely on social media, sparked violent protests in Anaheim on Wednesday night. Police arrested 23 people, including five youths, who face misdemeanor charges.
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed they placed the officer, who was not named, on administrative leave while the incident is under investigation. The Anaheim Police Department says it is also investigating the off-duty officer’s actions and would present its findings to the Orange County prosecutor’s office once it had completed its probe.
Anaheim Police said that the confrontation between the off-duty officer and several juveniles started over the officer’s ongoing problems with teenagers walking across his property.
During the confrontation, a 13-year-old boy allegedly threatened to shoot the off-duty officer, who then held the boy until APD arrived, according to Anaheim Police.That teen was arrested and booked as a juvenile for criminal threats and battery, and another boy, 15, was arrested for assault and battery. Both were later released to their parents, Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said. In one of the videos circulating online, the 13-year-old boy at the center of encounter appears to be accusing the officer of cursing at a girl in the group of teens.
In the video, the teen argues with the off-duty officer, as he appears to be gripping him tightly. The teen can also be heard denying that he said he threatened to shoot the officer, and insisting that he said he was going to “sue” him. Quezada said Thursday that the decision to arrest the two boys and not the off-duty officer was made after interviewing 18 youth at the scene, the off-duty officer and the officer’s father.
“I personally wish the off-duty officer would have awaited our arrival before taking action, but instead he decided to confront the juveniles,” Quezada said.
The video also shows the 13-year-old boy and other youths screaming at the officer to let the boy go. Eventually, another youth barrels into the officer knocking him over. At that point, the officer pulls out a weapon and appears to fire a single shot into the ground and the teens can be seen scattering. The police department said in a statement that videos posted online of the encounter “do not depict the entire event.”
“With regard to the juveniles, clear and compelling evidence existed supporting the 13-year-old’s involvement in making criminal threats and engaging in battery, and the 15-year-old’s involvement in an assault and battery,” Quezada told reporters. “I ask you to recall that not all videos had been submitted or collected at the time of our investigation.”
He stressed that police continue to investigate the off-duty officer’s actions, but noted “there was insufficient evidence at the time (police arrived at the scene) to prove that the officer’s actions rose to the level of a criminal act.”
About 300 demonstrators took part in the protest, which began in the neighborhood where the confrontation took place. Some protesters gathered around the officer’s home, breaking windows at the house and shattering car windows. Some in the crowd also tried to get inside the officer’s house, KTLA-TV reports.
“I fully support the public’s ability to exercise its rights to assemble and protest,” Quezada said. “Those rights, however, do not include the destruction of property, the disruption of the quiet enjoyment of our neighborhoods or any acts of violence.”
Protesters also broke the windows of an Anaheim police car, and spray-painted a garage door and broke a window at a neighboring house.
“Like many in the community, I’ve seen the video and I’m very concerned about what it shows,” Mayor Tom Tait said in a statement. “Anaheim is committed to a full and impartial investigation. Our city will move forward without delay.”
LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore said his department is investigating whether the discharge of the weapon by their off-duty officer complied with the department’s use of deadly force policy. Moore added that his department’s investigators will also probe whether the officer’s decision to initiate action against the teens was appropriate, including his decision to detain the youths.