In response to a recent cell phone video depicting an off-duty LAPD officer firing his gun to disperse a group of teenagers, more than 300 people took to the streets protesting Wednesday night in Anaheim, California. According to police, 24 people were arrested during the demonstrations, including 10 men, eight women, and six juveniles.
On Tuesday afternoon, a bystander recorded a cell phone video of an off-duty LAPD officer grabbing a 13-year-old boy by the arms and the front of his sweatshirt. After accusing the officer of attempting to punch him in the testicles, the boy told the off-duty cop, “You tackled me first. I didn’t do anything to hurt you. All I said was, ‘Respect the girl.’ Because you said, ‘Get off my property, you piece of cunt.’”
Instead of denying the allegation, the unidentified officer immediately accused the boy of threatening to shoot him.
“I didn’t say that!” the boy vehemently protested. “Why you lying? I said, ‘I’m going to sue you.’”
Seeing an adult male laying his hands on a 13-year-old child, another teen arrived at the scene attempting to separate them while asking the off-duty cop why the altercation was taking place. A few seconds later, a teen wearing a red backpack suddenly charged at the officer, knocking him backwards over a hedge.
After blocking a punch, the off-duty officer reached into his waistband and pulled out a handgun. Instead of directly aiming at any of the teens, the officer appeared to slightly lower his gun before firing a single bullet near the crowd of students.
Due to the fact that law enforcement officers are trained not to fire warning shots and the video did not appear to show that lethal force was necessary, the off-duty officer has been placed on administrative leave and is under investigation by the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division. Although the officer was not arrested for discharging his weapon near a group of teens, the 13-year-old boy was charged with making criminal threats and battery, while a 15-year-old boy was arrested for assault and battery.
Shortly after the video surfaced online, Jennifer Rojas, a policy advocate at the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement, “An officer, even off duty, has an obligation to follow the law and protect public safety, rather than threaten it. The LAPD officer’s actions on the video are grossly irresponsible.”
According to witnesses, the altercation began when the off-duty cop began yelling at a teenage girl for walking on his lawn, instead of the sidewalk. When the 13-year-old boy attempted to stand up for the girl, the officer escalated the situation when he reportedly mistook the phrase “I’m going to sue you” for “I’m going to shoot you.”
On Wednesday night, hundreds of protesters blocked the streets of Anaheim in a demonstration against the off-duty cop’s actions on that video. Police ended up arresting 24 people for misdemeanor failing to disperse, resisting arrest, and battery on a peace officer. According to Anaheim Police Department Sgt. Daron Wyatt, 10 men, eight women, and six juveniles were arrested.
“It’s just a terrible situation,” the grandmother of the 13-year-old boy told NBCNews. “It could’ve been handled completely in a different manner. He’s a good kid. He does all the right things. He has a good heart. I think that’s why he stuck up for this girl.”