An Off-Duty Officer's Gun Fired While He Fought A Group Of Teens On His Lawn
"As a father and as a police chief, I too am disturbed by what I saw in the videos."
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a Los Angeles police officer's home Wednesday night after the off-duty cop pulled a gun and fired at least one shot during a confrontation with teenagers.
Protesters threw items at police, broke windows of a home, and scratched "FTP" for "fuck the police" on a truck parked nearby. It was unclear if the home and truck belonged to the officer involved in the shooting, but police told BuzzFeed News a garage door vandalized with "Fuck pigs" did not.
Anaheim police, which is investigating the incident, said 24 people were arrested in the protests, including 10 men, eight women, three male minors and two female minors.
At one point, police formed a line between a home and demonstrators to prevent more damage.
Demonstrators gathered for the protest after cell phone video captured an altercation Tuesday afternoon in Anaheim, where an unidentified officer is seen tugging and holding on to a 13-year-old boy in a residential area while a group of other teens try to pull the teenager free.
As the confrontation continues, a teenager with a red backpack runs into the officer, knocking him over a bush. Another teenager appears to take a swing at the officer.
The officer, who is wearing sunglasses, jeans, and an unbuttoned blue shirt, then pulls out a handgun from his waistband. The officer is seen struggling with one of the teenagers, trying to drag him out of the bushes while holding a gun with one of his hands when a shot rings out.
No one was injured by the gunshot, but Los Angeles police officials told BuzzFeed News they are conducting an administrative review of the incident. The officer, who has not been identified, was not taken into custody and is cooperating with the investigation, Anaheim police said in a statement.
The confrontation was the result of an ongoing dispute between the off-duty officer and teenagers walking on his lawn, Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt told BuzzFeed News.
On Thursday, Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said he was disturbed by what he saw in the footage of the violent confrontation.
"As a father and as a police chief, I too am disturbed by what I saw in the videos posted on the internet," Quezada said at a news conference.
Body camera video from officers who responded to the neighborhood after the shot was fired has also "raised additional concerns" about the incident, Quezada said.
"I am deeply disturbed and frankly angered," Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said. "It should never have happened, not in one of our neighborhoods, not near our schools."
Tait said he also wanted answers as to why the two teenagers were detained and arrested, but not the officer who fired his weapon.
"I share that question, and our community deserves an answer," he said.
Police say the confrontation began after the 13-year-old threatened to "shoot" the officer. In video of the incident, however, the teen can be heard arguing with the man and telling him that he didn't say "shoot you" but "sue you."
The teenager's father, Johnny Dorscht, told BuzzFeed News the confrontation started when the officer told a girl to get off his lawn and called her an offensive name. His son then stood up for the girl.
"She was in front of him and I guess she stepped on the guy's grass and my son heard him call her (a name)," Dorscht told BuzzFeed News.
The teen then told the officer not to speak to the girl that way, and the officer approached him and grabbed him. Dorscht said his son told the officer, "I'm going to sue you," but the officer claimed he heard "I'm going to shoot you."
Jay Gonzalez, a 17-year-old student who was walking home from school and recorded the confrontation on her cell phone, told BuzzFeed News that when police arrived, officers handcuffed the two teenagers.
"The cops handcuffed the boy and they went up to the man and just talked to him," she said.
While Jay didn't see the beginning of the altercation, Jay said never heard the man identify himself as a police officer during the confrontation.
Anaheim police said the 13-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of battery and making criminal threats against the off-duty officer, including threatening to shoot him.
The teen was taken to Orange County Juvenile Hall and released Wednesday.
A 15-year-old boy was also taken into custody on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and battery, and was released to his parents.
The teenagers were not identified because they are minors.
"They should have never gotten to that point," Dorscht said. "It's just a lot going on for sticking up for somebody."
In pictures that Dorscht provided to the OC Weekly, his son suffered bruising in his neck, wrists, and head. He said he was being checked out to make sure he wasn't injured in the scuffle.
Several teenagers who witnessed the incident appeared to take out their cell phones to record the confrontation. In one of the videos, the 13-year-old boy is heard saying that the off-duty officer had allegedly called a girl an offensive name while telling her to get off his lawn, prompting him to step onto the property, where the scuffle ensued.
"All I said was respect the girl," the boy says in the video.
When another teenager backs up the 13-year-old's account, the unidentified officer is heard saying, "Shut the fuck up, you weren't even there."
"He tried to hit me in my nuts right now," the 13-year-old, held by his sweatshirt, responds. "Can't you pick on someone your own size, man?"
Gonzalez said there were about 25 teens in the street when the officer fired a shot.
Anaheim police said that version of events, eventually leading to a confrontational back-and-forth between the officer and the 13-year-old, is being looked at by investigators.
Anaheim Police have not yet confirmed whether the off-duty officer identified himself as an officer during the confrontation, but believe he did so because other teens in the video can be heard asking him how they could be sure he is a officer, Wyatt said.
Los Angeles Police Department officials said an administrative review of the incident was being conducted. The officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Wyatt said because shots were fired, LAPD homicide detectives are reviewing the incident, and are looking at possible criminal charges.
"The LAPD is doing their own independent investigation that will focus on their action and procedures, but we're looking at possible criminal culpability," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also called on both the Los Angeles and Anaheim Police to investigate the incident, in particular why the two teenagers were arrested and detained but not the officer.
"(The ACLU) calls on the Anaheim Police Department to provide a full explanation of why, in an altercation between the police officer and youths, the youths were arrested but not the officer who fired his gun," Jennifer Rojas, community engagement and policy advocate for the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement. "An officer, even off duty, has an obligation to follow the law and protect pubic safety, rather than threaten it."
Quezada also said the department will be looking into how officers responded to the area and handled the incident, including the decision to take the two teens into custody but not the officer.
Since Tuesday, Anaheim police said they have been receiving calls from people upset about the video from across the country, with department administrators' email and voicemail boxes clogged.
"My cell phone, my desk phone is full," he said.
On their Facebook page, the department asked people not to leave messages critical of the incident.
"Calling and sending emails to APD voicing your displeasure will NOT impact the outcome," the statement read.
"We're not taking this incident lightly," Wyatt said. "We're investigating it fully and the district attorney's office, they'll make the determination whether charges are filed or not."