ANAHEIM (CBSLA) – An off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fired his gun during an altercation with a group of teenagers outside his Anaheim home last year, setting off violent protests, will not face criminal charges.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday morning that Kevin Ferguson acted lawfully as a private citizen when he fired his weapon into the ground while detaining a 13-year-old boy during a confrontation with several teens.
“The evidence does not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Ferguson committed a crime,” Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told reporters at a news conference.
While the behavior was not smart or sensible, it was still lawful, the DA’s office determined.
“What Mr. Ferguson did was unwise, was immature… it did endanger a large group of juveniles,” Baytieh said.
However, it did not rise to the level of criminal behavior.
“If you want to protect your lawn to that extent, maybe you ought to put a fence around it…. that behavior, is not good behavior,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
On the afternoon of Feb. 21, 2017, then 33-year-old Ferguson was involved in a skirmish on his property at the intersection of Euclid Street and Palais Road with a group of teens.
The confrontation began over Ferguson’s ongoing issue with teens from a nearby school walking across his property. Baytieh said that the incident was sparked when Ferguson used a “derogatory” and “despicable” term against a girl, which prompted her friend, 13-year-old Christian Dorscht, to confront him.
Multiple cell phone videos showed Ferguson grabbing Dorscht’s sweatshirt and pulling him across the lawn as they argued. At the time, Ferguson claimed he grabbed Dorscht after hearing him allegedly say, “If you touch me I’m going to shoot you.”
However, Dorscht claims he actually told Ferguson, “I’m going to sue you.”
It was that purported statement that prompted Ferguson to “pursue” Dorscht in order to detain him, Baytieh said.
At the news conference, the DA showed multiple videos of the struggle. As the confrontation ensued, Ferguson was surrounded by up to 14 teens.
Ferguson kicked Dorscht, which escalated the situation, the DA’s office said. At one point, a teen punched Ferguson and another teen tackled him while trying to get Ferguson to let go of Dorscht.
Rackauckas praised the teens for their handling of the confrontation.
“Their behavior is pretty restrained” given the circumstances, Rackauckas said.
It was when a fourth teen stepped towards Ferguson and reached into his own back pocket to put away what appeared to be a pen or pencil that Ferguson pulled out his gun.
“John Doe four takes a step closer towards Mr. Ferguson, and Mr. Ferguson continues with his motion to grab his handgun,” Baytieh said.
The perceived threat from that fourth teen is what prompted Ferguson to pull out his gun from his waistband and fire it into the ground.
At the heart of the case, Baytieh explained, was whether Ferguson acted within his rights as a private citizen, not as an off-duty police officer.
“We did not evaluate the case looking at Mr. Ferguson as a police officer… we evaluated the case as Mr. Ferguson, a private citizen.”
The DA’s office looked at whether Ferguson had a right to detain Dorscht, which they determined that he did.
“Any private person may arrest another individual for a public offense,” Baytieh said.
Upon their arrival, Anaheim police officers spoke to Ferguson and then arrested and booked Dorscht and another 15-year-old boy. The two were later released and no charges were filed by the DA. Dorscht is the stepson of an Anaheim police officer.
“For our purposes, we treated him as a John Doe citizen trying to effectuate a citizen’s arrest,” Baytieh added.
The video of the incident prompted several protests in the following days. One turned violent and resulted in about two dozen arrests.
Immediately following the incident, Anaheim police declined to file charges against Ferguson. He had his weapon seized and was placed on administrative leave by LAPD. It’s unclear what his current status is with the department.
In March, Dorscht and his family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Anaheim and the LAPD. That case is still ongoing.
The city of Anaheim concluded its investigation into the incident this summer before handing it over to the DA.