Protests erupt after off-duty Calif. officer clashes with teens
Dozens were arrested after they clashed with police near a home where an officer fired a single round during an off-duty struggle with a 13-year-old boy
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dozens of people were arrested early Thursday after they clashed with police near a Southern California home where a Los Angeles policeman fired a single round during an off-duty struggle with a 13-year-old boy and the boy's companions earlier in the week.
Hundreds of people marched through suburban streets, some blocking traffic and carrying signs that said "no shooting zone," after videos surfaced showing the incident between the officer and a group of youths.
The fight that sparked the protest occurred Tuesday over ongoing issues with kids walking home from school across the officer's property in Anaheim, a police statement said.
The 13-year-old believed the officer had cursed at a teenage girl who had walked across the lawn at the house about two 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.
One video posted on YouTube showed the officer struggling with the boy, who repeatedly denied he threatened to shoot and at one point 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 a shot was fired.
Witnesses said the officer "did not discharge the gun toward anyone," Anaheim Sgt. Daron Wyatt told KNX-AM radio.
After police arrived, the off-duty officer put his hands up and was walked away to be interviewed. The teenager was eventually handcuffed.
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 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.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said in a statement that Anaheim was committed to a full and impartial investigation of the incident.
Police in Anaheim and Los Angeles were investigating and the officer was cooperating, Wyatt said.
The officer, who was not named, was placed on administrative leave.
The calm gathering of protesters Wednesday night was disrupted as 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 variations of failure to disperse, resisting arrest, and battery on a peace officer.