Now that the Los Angeles Police Department has released the name of the off-duty officer who fired a gun near a crowd of teenagers last week in a residential neighborhood of Anaheim, the controversy has migrated to L.A.
For the past week, the voicemail greeting for the public information officer at the Anaheim Police Department has reminded those “calling to express displeasure over the video posted on YouTube” to call a separate complaint line and to “please also understand the officer works for the LAPD, not the Anaheim Police Department.”
Last week, Anaheim officials bore nearly all the fallout from Officer Kevin Ferguson's aggressive actions, portions of which, including the gunshot, were filmed by some of the teens who stood by observing as the incident escalated.
Anaheim police arriving at the scene within moments after the shot was fired arrested not the off-duty LAPD officer, who fired his gun near a crowd of nearly a dozen teenagers, but rather two teenage boys, ages 13 and 15. Police later released the boys without charging them. As for Ferguson, Chief Raul Quezada said there was “insufficient evidence at the time to prove the officer's actions rose to the level of a criminal act.”
“Criminal charges could still be brought against any and all parties involved,” Quezada added.
Police Chief Charlie Beck has not commented publicly about the video or the multiple ongoing investigations of Ferguson, by the LAPD Force Investigation Division, the Office of the Inspector General and the Anaheim Police Department Homicide Detail, which is handling the criminal investigation.
LAPD spokesman Officer Aareon Jefferson says Ferguson initially was put on administrative leave and has since been assigned to desk duty, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Speaking on Chief Beck’s behalf at a press conference in Anaheim on Feb. 23, LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore offered little more than an outline of the department's policy for conducting administrative investigations in such cases (the tactics that he engaged in, his efforts to de-escalate, how reasonable was his decision to resort to deadly force).
Garcetti, meanwhile, issued a brief statement noting that he was “concerned” by what he saw in the video and that he looks forward to the findings of the investigations.
Chief Beck and L.A. Police Commission president Matt Johnson were absent from the L.A. Police Commission meeting on Tuesday. (They were attending the 20-year anniversary of a notorious gun battle between police and two heavily armed bank robbers in North Hollywood.) But Black Lives Matter Los Angeles showed up, rallying about 30 supporters to attend the meeting. During the public comment period, several speakers called for the commission to discipline Ferguson, who department officials say has been a patrolman in the Hollywood division since 2013.
A discussion of the altercation in Anaheim was not on the agenda for Tuesday, and commissioners mostly steered clear of addressing it. The exception was commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill. Speaking at the conclusion of the public comment period, McClain-Hill said: “If I believed that what I saw in that video represented this department’s training and this department’s officers en masse, I would consider my time here to be futile with the board. I don’t hold that view.”
Luis Carrillo, an attorney representing a teenage girl involved in the violent confrontation, tells L.A. Weekly that his client, a student at Ball Junior High School, was part of a group that walked through Ferguson's front yard and was close by when the off-duty officer fired a round from his gun.
Carrillo has taken the first step toward a federal lawsuit in the matter, filing what are known as claim statutes with the city of Anaheim and the city of L.A. The court filings, copies of which he sent L.A. Weekly, claim Ferguson was poorly trained by LAPD and displayed poor professional judgment.
“She’s a 13-year-old girl,” Carrillo says of his client in the document. “The kids have reported that … he got mad at her because she crossed his grass. He said, ‘You fucking bitch, you cunt.’ The hero was the kid who said you shouldn’t talk to her like that.”
Larry Hanna, an attorney representing Ferguson, says his client feared for his life after one of the teens rushed him and knocked him over a row of bushes. He says Ferguson fired a warning shot in self-defense to disperse the crowd.
“The comments from the public, I don't know if that's going to necessarily drive an item onto the agenda [of the Police Commission] until the investigation is complete,” Hanna says.
Juan García, public information director for the L.A. Police Commission, says the typical investigation of an officer who discharges a firearm takes about 10 months to be completed and presented to the commission. García acknowledged that some investigations can be completed sooner.
Melina Abdullah, an activist and organizer for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, called the 10-month time frame “completely unacceptable.”
“That’s entirely too slow, when you talk about an officer endangering the lives of children,” Abdullah says. “That’s a criminal act. That is assault with a deadly weapon. Are you going to let this man walk the streets with a firearm for the next 10 months? All our children are endangered while it’s being investigated.”
The altercation between Ferguson and the teenagers was caught on video and shared on YouTube and Facebook, where it has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.