Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Anaheim after viral images surfaced showing an off-duty Los Angeles police officer firing a gun during a fight with a group of juveniles he confronted for walking across his yard.
While more videos of the incident circulate, two teens have been arrested and investigators are still trying to figure out why the off-duty officer, who has not been identified, decided it was necessary to use deadly force.
During a press conference Thursday, city officials called the officer’s actions shocking. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he’s “deeply disturbed and frankly angered by what (the video) shows.”
“The video shows an adult wrestling with a 13-year-old kid and ultimately firing a gun. I am so thankful no one was seriously hurt. It should’ve never have happened. Not in one of our neighborhoods. Not near one of our schools. Now we as a city are left to figure all this out,” Tait said.
The day after the altercation, about 300 people took to the streets in protest, nearly two dozen of which were arrested. Protesters made their way to the officer’s neighborhood, gathering outside of his home, while some angry rioters vandalized the neighborhood.
The Anaheim Police said in a statement the altercation occurred as students cut through the off-duty officer’s year while walking home from school Tuesday.
In one video, the officer holds a teen’s arm as onlookers — mostly other teens — surround the two while they struggle through a yard and argue. As they make their way to some hedges, another teen approaches to try to help the teen and that’s when another teen rushes the officer, pushing him over the hedges.
As the officer picks regains composure, he maintains his grip on the teen and tries pulling him over the hedges. As he does, one boy throws a punch at him and then the officer retrieves a pistol from his waistband. As he pulls the boy over the hedges, that’s when the pistol discharges, sending many onlookers fleeing.
When the video re-focuses, the officer has the teen apprehended with one arm around his chest and his other hand holding the pistol. Some ways away, a group of teens can be seen sitting on a curb next to a squad car and a uniformed officer standing nearby. Then uniformed officers approach and take control of the situation by apprehending the teen and escorting the off-duty officer away.
An attorney for an off-duty officer told local media he had to fire a warning shot because he “feared for his life.” The attorney added the officer was trying to defend himself and his father, who is “severely disabled.”
While it’s unclear if he will face charges or disciplinary actions, LA police referred the case to a specialized Force Investigation Division and an investigator with the department’s Office of Inspector General will also participate in the investigation.
The 13-year-old male involved was booked at Orange County Juvenile Hall for criminal threats and battery, and the 15-year-old male was arrested for assault and battery, but was released to his parents.
The Los Angeles Times reports the officer has filed at least one complaint regarding previous run-ins with the teens. Neighbors told the newspaper that the area has always been quiet but has recently been prone to more crime and vandalism.
Edie Gulrich, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly two decades said the kids have come through and torn up her plants and spray painted graffiti on her fence. “I tell them, ‘I don’t do this to your house so why are you doing it to mine?’” Gulrich said. “And they shrug their shoulders.”
Daniel Terrill contributed to the reporting of this piece