Authorities in Anaheim, California say they are disturbed by a viral video that shows an off-duty Los Angeles police officer firing his gun during a struggle with a 13-year-old boy. The incident has prompted hundreds of protesters to take to the streets in the town.
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada told reporters that no one involved in the Tuesday (21 February) altercation has been formally charged. The police chief said Thursday (23 February) that he hopes the criminal investigation into the incident will be completed within two weeks.
According to CNN, Quezada and Mayor Tom Tait added they were thankful no one was injured when the off-duty officer fired his weapon. "As a father and as a police chief, I too am disturbed by what I saw on the videos that were posted on the internet," Quezada said.
"It should have never happened," the mayor added. "Not in one of our neighbourhoods, not near one of our schools."
The altercation, which occurred outside the officer's home, erupted over an ongoing dispute about teens walking across his property. An argument between the officer and a 13-year-old boy ensued, leading the policeman to drag the boy across the lawn and wrestle with him as he attempted to detain him.
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Portions of the incident were captured on video and posted on social media. The video shows the officer accusing the boy of threatening to shoot him. The boy argues that he did not say that as the two struggle. A couple of teens then lunge at the officer, who takes out his gun and fires it at the ground in retaliation.
Quezada confirmed the events to reporters. "While physically detaining the juvenile, several houses away from where the initial incident began, several other juveniles became involved and a physical altercation ensued," he said. He added that two juveniles allegedly assaulted the officer and knocked him to the ground.
Police arrived at the scene and interviewed the off-duty officer, his father and 18 juveniles. The police chief said "clear and compelling evidence" supports the allegations that the 13-year-old made criminal threats and attacked the officer, while a 15-year-old further assaulted the officer. The two were arrested.
According to KTLA, the 13-year-old was originally booked at juvenile hall and the 15-year-old was released to his parents. The younger boy has also since been released. His family has secured the services of an attorney, the boy's mother said.
The 13-year-old spoke to KTLA and said the incident actually began when the officer yelled at a girl. "I said, 'Hey, that's not how you treat a lady.
"And then he came at me. ... He hit me. I ran to the street to run away from him, and he got me."
The boy's account was collaborated by a neighbour who witnessed the incident. "This cop is just irate, starts charging after this poor kid and from one thing to the next, it just went from, 'Hey, don't talk to her,' to this kid being dragged," the neighbour said.
Incident goes viral, prompts protests
The video of the incident sparked a flood of phone calls and emails to Anaheim police, The Los Angeles Times reported. On Wednesday (22 February) night, around 300 protesters took to the streets in Anaheim. The demonstrators blocked intersections and marched around residential areas.
According to the Times, some protesters threw rocks, cursed at police, kicked police cars and even attempted to protest at the house of the off-duty officer. Photos circulating on social media show police officers creating a barrier at the house.
At around 10pm PST (6am GMT), police ordered protesters to disperse. An hour later, police advanced towards demonstrators and arrested 24 people. Initial reports show that there were 10 men, eight women, three male juveniles and three female juveniles arrested. They face misdemeanor counts of failing to disperse, resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.