A day after an off-duty Los Angeles police officer fired his gun during a confrontation with a group of teenagers in Anaheim, videos purportedly showing the encounter spread online, prompting questions about the officer’s actions.
No one was injured by the gunfire, but the images — posted on YouTube and Facebook — sparked a flurry of phone calls and emails to Anaheim police, who are investigating the officer’s actions.
(Warning: The video contains indecent language. You can watch it here.)
On Wednesday night, about 300 demonstrators took to the streets of Anaheim to protest the case. The marchers began in the west Anaheim neighborhood where the shooting occurred, and eventually moved into major streets.
UPDATE: Anaheim police release boy held after altercation with off-duty LAPD officer who fired his gun »
The group took over several lanes of Euclid Avenue, at times blocking intersections.
Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Whose streets, our streets” as they marched around the residential neighborhoods surrounding Euclid Avenue.
Some threw rocks, cursed at police officers and kicked police cars. Others tried to protest at the house of the off-duty LAPD officer, which was nearby.
Anaheim police gave the order to disperse at around 10 p.m. About 100 people remained in the chilly air, gathering on the corner of Palais Road and Euclid Street.
Police blocked off the intersection and faced off with the protesters, who chanted slogans and brandished signs at the officers.
Many of the protesters were young people who had seen the video on their social media feeds. Jocelyne Gutierrez, 21, and her friend Karla Zuniga, 20, decided to join the protest at around 9 p.m. Gutierrez said she saw herself in the boy in the video.
"It could have been me, my friend or someone from my family," she said.
At around 11 p.m., police advanced toward the protesters, trying to get them to leave. About 24 people were arrested, police said. According to initial reports, they included 10 men, eight women, three male juveniles and three female juveniles. The detainees face misdemeanor counts of failing to disperse, resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.
Police reported several residence and vehicle windows broken and other acts of vandalism but had no estimate of damage.
The Anaheim Police Department was flooded with calls about the video.
“Calling and sending emails to APD voicing your displeasure will NOT impact the outcome,” the department posted on its Facebook page. “A decision whether or not to file charges rests with the District Attorney's office and is based on facts and evidence.”
The department said in a separate statement that although officials could not “authenticate the validity of these videos” posted online because they were not recorded or shared by the department, “they do appear to depict portions of the incident in question.”
Sgt. Daron Wyatt, an Anaheim police spokesman, estimated that he had received more than 500 calls after the videos began circulating online. Because of the influx of calls and emails, he said, the department set up a separate phone line for the public: (714) 765-7990.
He cautioned that the videos do not show the entirety of the encounter, capturing only a "very small portion."
Some have questioned why the officer wasn't arrested. Wyatt said detectives opted to finish their investigation before presenting their case to the district attorney's office for review.
Tuesday’s confrontation began over what Anaheim police described as “ongoing issues” with the juveniles walking across the officer’s property. During the argument, police said, a 13-year-old allegedly threatened to shoot the off-duty officer, prompting him to attempt to detain the teen.
Two videos, taken by witnesses and posted online, appear to show the officer grab a 13-year-old boy on a lawn. A group of young people, most wearing backpacks, stood nearby.
In one video, the boy says the encounter began when the officer cursed at a girl who walked across his yard, then grabbed the boy after he protested the officer’s language.
“That’s not what I said,” the officer replied. Another teenager chimed in, but could not be heard clearly on the recording.
“Shut the … up,” the officer said. “You weren’t even there.”
With the officer grabbing the collar of the 13-year-old’s sweatshirt, the two staggered across the lawn. “Let me go,” the boy said repeatedly.
At one point, someone rushes the officer, sending him over a row of bushes. The man then starts to drag the boy over the hedge as another boy swings at him.
A few seconds later, as more people approach the two, the man reaches into the waistband of his jeans and draws what appears to be a gun. A single gunshot can be heard about three seconds later.
Anaheim police officers were called to the scene at Euclid Street and Palais Road at about 2:40 p.m.
Because the officer fired his gun, Anaheim homicide detectives were assigned to the case and interviewed witnesses at the scene.
Two teenagers were arrested, Anaheim police said. The 13-year-old was arrested on suspicion of battery and making criminal threats, and a 15-year-old was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.
Wyatt said the off-duty officer was cooperating with the inquiry. His name was not released.
Capt. Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman, said the department had launched its own internal investigation into the shooting, which is standard procedure when officers fire their guns. Neiman said LAPD detectives and staff from the inspector general’s office had gone to the scene.
“We will continue to conduct the internal investigation to determine the actions of the officer and the circumstances, and then we’ll consult with the Orange County district attorney as well to determine if there’s any issues,” Neiman said.
As with all shootings by LAPD officers, Neiman said, the off-duty officer will remain out of the field until what’s known as a 72-hour briefing, when Chief Charlie Beck reviews the initial inquiry into the case and determines whether the officer can return.
The LAPD said in a statement issued Wednesday evening that investigators were aware of the video and would review it as part of their inquiry.
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada planned to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he wanted to full investigation.
“Like many in the community, I’ve seen the video and I’m very concerned about what it shows,” Tait said. “Anaheim is committed to a full and impartial investigation. Our city will move forward without delay.”
Anaheim has a history of protests over what some residents consider unfair treatment by police. There were series of intense demonstrations and unrest several years ago after the fatal shooting by police of a Latino man.