ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com/AP) — Anaheim’s police chief Thursday cited insufficient evidence in the decision not to arrest an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fired a weapon during an altercation with a group of teenagers.
In an afternoon news conference, Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said officers interviewed everyone involved in the skirmish, and arrested a 13-year-old boy on suspicion of making criminal threats after the off-duty officer alleged that the teen had threatened to shoot him.
The boy disputed that claim, saying he told the off-duty officer he was going to “sue” him.
Quezada said the off-duty officer, who has not been identified, was interviewed and his weapon was seized. He has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The LAPD confirmed the officer has been on the force for less than 10 years.
No one was hurt in the scuffle at the intersection of Euclid Street and Palais Road that started Tuesday afternoon after the off-duty LAPD officer took action in an ongoing dispute with students walking after school. The officer had reported the problem in the past to local police, said Anaheim Sgt. Daron Wyatt.
The 13-year-old, who is the stepson of an Anaheim police officer, was booked on suspicion of making a criminal threat and battery. He was released from Orange County Juvenile Hall Wednesday. A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery.
Police Chief Raul Quezada defended his department’s decision to arrest the two teens, but not the officer, who detained the 13-year-old boy after believing the boy threatened him. The investigation continues and the chief wouldn’t rule out charges against anyone involved.
Anaheim police have seized the officer’s personal gun as evidence for their investigation and expect to present their case to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office within two weeks. LAPD is conducting its own internal investigation.
Videos shot from different angles and posted on YouTube show the officer clenching the boy’s sweatshirt and pulling him across the lawn as they argued about what precipitated the incident.
“In the officer’s mind, he heard the young man say he was going to shoot him. He thought he had a gun,” said the officer’s attorney, Larry Hanna, in a statement.
“It was a warning shot to get this crowd of people away from him who were intent on doing him bodily injury and it’s shown on the video he was doing no bodily injury to the young man.”
The 13-year-old believed the officer, who was not named, had cursed at a teenage girl who had walked across his lawn in the area of single-family homes, many with tidy flower beds and well-pruned trees, about 2 miles west of Disneyland.
Michael Carrillo, an attorney representing the teenage girl, said she had “grazed” the officer’s lawn when he began shouting expletives at her. Carrillo said the altercation turned physical after the boy stepped in and told the officer he shouldn’t curse at a child.
Mayor Tom Tait said he was “deeply disturbed” and angered by what he saw on video of the incident, but he also denounced violence and damage caused by demonstrators.
“The video shows an adult wrestling with a 13-year-old kid, and ultimately firing a gun,” Tait said. “This has been a blow to our community.”
Hundreds of people marched through suburban Anaheim streets late Wednesday, some blocking traffic and carrying signs that said “no shooting zone.” Police arrested two dozen people, including children, after the crowd ignored orders to disperse.
A forensics team Thursday searched for evidence at the LAPD officer’s home, which was vandalized Wednesday night, along with the officer’s vehicle.
A second home, located around the corner from the officer’s residence, was mistakenly defaced by protesters who thought it belonged to the LAPD officer. Neighbor Joe Gulrich, 76, said his house was spray-painted and police told him he should leave for his own safety. When he returned late at night, he found a rock had been thrown through his front window.
On Thursday night, a much smaller group of protesters showed up to demonstrate in the neighborhood of the LAPD officer. However, following Wednesday night’s violence and vandalism, Anaheim police in riot gear taped and blocked off the area, preventing them from getting through.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Protective League said Thursday the cellphone video shows the officer was physically assaulted by multiple individuals and sustained injuries in Tuesday’s incident. The union said an officer has the right to self-defense no matter the age of the offender.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)