An off-duty California officer who didn’t want teens walking across his lawn fired his gun during a struggle with a 13-year-old boy and other youths, igniting unruly protests after video of the fight surfaced and two boys were arrested.
No one was hurt during the struggle, but hundreds of people marched through suburban 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.
The fight Tuesday between the off-duty Los Angeles police officer and the group of kids stemmed from ongoing issues with teens walking across the man’s property in Anaheim, a police statement said. The 13-year-old believed the officer, who was not named, had cursed at a teenage girl who had walked across his lawn about 2 miles west of Disneyland, the Orange County Register reported.
“The little kid said, ‘I’m going to sue you,’ and then the guy thought he said, ‘I’m going to shoot you.’ That’s when he started grabbing the little kid,” Gregory Perez, 16, told the newspaper. At one point, the teen said, “Let me go. … I’m only 13.”
Another youth rushed the officer, who stumbled back through a low hedge, still holding the 13-year-old. A teen then took a swing at the officer. Other kids approached, and the man — still gripping the 13-year-old with one hand — pulled a gun from his waistband, crouched and fired a shot.
You can watch the video below:
Witnesses said the officer “did not discharge the gun toward anyone,” Anaheim Sgt. Daron Wyatt told the KNX-AM radio station. After police arrived, the off-duty officer put his hands up and was led away to be interviewed. The teenager was eventually handcuffed.
The 13-year-old boy was booked on suspicion of making a criminal threat and battery, while a 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery and later released, police said. The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that the video was deeply disturbing and called on investigators to explain why the boys were arrested but the officer who fired the shot was not.
Police in Anaheim and Los Angeles were investigating, and the officer was cooperating, Wyatt said. He has been placed on administrative leave. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said in a statement that the city was committed to a full and impartial investigation.
The city of about 350,000 people south of Los Angeles was roiled in 2012 by demonstrations following the fatal police shootings of two unarmed Latino men. The deaths sparked four days of violent protests resulting in smashed shop windows and dozens of arrests.
The protests Wednesday started calmly but were disrupted when some demonstrators blocked traffic, vandalized the officer’s home and hurled objects at police. Officials said 24 people were arrested — 10 men, eight women, three boys and three girls. All could face misdemeanor charges for failure to disperse, resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.