LOS ANGELES – Today, George Gascón released an open letter to the community in which he committed to reopen at least four fatal officer-involved-shootings that Jackie Lacey declined to charge since she took office if elected on November 3rd. In his letter, Gascón also details his concerns related to five additional cases that either remain under investigation or in which the statute of limitations has passed where he believes charges may be appropriate.
“Long before I entered this race significant concerns were raised by law enforcement officials, civil rights attorneys, activists, and others regarding District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s handling of police use of force cases,” said former District Attorney and Assistant Chief of the LAPD, George Gascón. “Public trust in her decision-making process has been shattered by the enormous sums of financial support the District Attorney has received from the law enforcement unions representing the many officers she has failed to hold accountable.”
For months, former Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police Department and retired judge, Katherine Mader, along with former Senior Trial Attorney from the Civil Rights Division of President Obama’s Department of Justice, Je Yon Jung, have been reviewing police use of force cases. Based on their findings and recommendations, in conjunction with Gascón’s view of the cases and for the reasons stated in his letter, he has decided to reopen investigations into the officer-Involved-shootings denoted below if elected as Los Angeles District Attorney.
“Reopening” an investigation requires a review of all available evidence, including the full taped interviews of witnesses, interviews of additional witnesses as necessary, analysis of the forensic evidence, and a re-evaluation of the District Attorney’s decision to close these cases in light of the applicable law. Please note this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of cases that require an objective review and our review of cases is ongoing.
For more analysis and for information about the aforementioned additional five cases, please see Gascón’s open letter. The cases Gascón pledges to reopen if elected are as follows.
1. Fatal Officer-Involved-Shooting of Brendon Glenn, Los Angeles Police Department, 2015. Video available here.
Basis for reopening this case: Failing to comply with an officer’s directions does not justify the use of deadly force, particularly when there is not an imminent threat. Specifically, the timing and sequence of Officer Proctor’s shots into the back of an unarmed, intoxicated, and mentally ill homeless man who was bent over facing away from the officers, raises serious concerns about an imminent threat. Also, Proctor did not definitively see Glenn’s hand reaching for his partner’s weapon, coupled with his partner’s statements about the incident and the location of his firearm provide additional questions about the objective reasonableness of Proctor’s use of deadly force.
2. Fatal Officer-Involved-Shooting of Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, Gardena Police Department, 2013. Video available here.
Basis for reopening this case: Failing to comply with an officer’s directions does not justify the use of deadly force, particularly when there is not an imminent threat. Zeferino was unarmed and with two other subjects who were victims of a bike theft, yet mistaken by police as suspects. The police and DA’s post-hoc argument that Zeferino was ignoring instructions and dropping and raising his hands does not appear to justify lethal force especially when no weapon was seen or suspected, and since Zeferino had dropped and raised his hands twice already and police didn’t shoot. Officers said they would shoot Zeferino if he moved his hands again, effectively predetermining their actions instead of reacting to an imminent threat. In the absence of any indication of an imminent threat, it appears Officers shot Zeferino because he failed to keep his arms in the air and was not complying with their demands.
3. Hector Morejon, Long Beach Police Department, 2015. No video available.
Basis for reopening this case: District Attorney Jackie Lacey failed to address and reconcile statements from the officer detailing why he shot and the direct physical evidence that Morejon was shot in the back. Officer Meyer, without announcing himself, aimed his firearm inside the window of a residence occupied by squatters in response to a simple trespass call. He shot Morejon when he claimed that “Morejon took a firing stance.” District Attorney Jackie Lacey focused on the lack of credibility of the witnesses inside the residence in declining to prosecute this case. Officer Meyer stated that he shot Morejon because he saw him “take a ‘firing stance.’” Such a stance would have required Morejon to face Officer Meyer, and that is not consistent the autopsy results which reflect Morejon having been shot in the back. The report stated that the shooting officer was reckless in his tactics, and likely provoked the decedent’s response. No firearms were ever found in the residence. The investigation was closed nonetheless.
4. Christopher Deandre Mitchell, Torrance Police Department, 2018. Video available here.
Basis for reopening this case: District Attorney Jackie Lacey failed to address and reconcile the fact that Mitchell was shot when he moved his hands one second after being given instructions to “Get out of the car!” After the shooting, both officers described seeing the stock of a long firearm between Mitchell’s legs. However, neither officer notified their respective partner of the existence of a weapon during the encounter, contrary to standard protocols, raising questions as to the existence of their perceptions–let alone misperceptions–of a threat. Moreover, the report failed to address why the officer instructed Mitchell to get out of a vehicle if they knew that he had a weapon. Mitchell received multiple and conflicting instructions including “don’t move” and, the last of which was, “get out of the car.” He would have had to move his body, including his hands to comply with the officer’s commands, but he was shot within one second of that command. These facts raise multiple questions as to the objective reasonableness of their perceptions of an imminent threat and their corresponding decision to use deadly force.
George Gascón is the Democratic Party’s nominee. He is endorsed by the LA Times and the LA Daily News, Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Governor Gavin Newsom, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, labor leader and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and former Chief of the LAPD Charlie Beck. Click here for a full list of his supporters.
Mr. Gascón grew up in Los Angeles after his family immigrated from Cuba. An army veteran, Gascón served as a Los Angeles Police Department Officer for 30 years, rising to the rank of Assistant Chief of Operations. In 2006 he became Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona, where he stood up to the hateful and anti-immigrant policies of then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2009, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón Chief of Police. Newsom turned to Gascón again in 2011 when he tapped him to be District Attorney to fill the seat vacated by an outgoing Kamala Harris who had been elected Attorney General. During his tenure Gascón implemented reforms that are being duplicated across the country while overseeing violent crime and homicides drop to rates not seen in 50 years. After being elected to two terms, Gascón returned to Los Angeles to care for his elderly mother and to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren in Long Beach. Gascón is married to Fabiola Kramsky, a three-time Emmy Award winning journalist and recipient of the “Premio Nacional de Periodismo,” the highest recognition given to journalists in Mexico.