Anaheim police held a press conference yesterday afternoon following angry protests Wednesday night regarding a cellphone video showing an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department Officer detaining 13-year-old Christian Dorscht before pulling a gun and firing a shot near several students. Backed by the mayor and other civic leaders, the conference followed a predictable format right out of the page of the Anaheim Riots five years ago. Like last time, city leaders professed empathy, preached faith in the investigatory process and condemned vandalism as violence.
"As a father and as a police chief, I, too, am disturbed with what I saw on the videos that were posted on the internet," Chief Raul Quezada stated, referring to the now-infamous videos of the incident. "Having said that, as a police chief, I'm charged with enforcing the laws absent my personal feelings."
Quezada stressed that his department's initial investigation showed that the off-duty cop didn't shoot at anybody, but only fired a round into the ground. The chief stated that not all smartphone videos had been available for review at that time, but compelling evidence existed to arrest the two teens, including a potential felony criminal threat allegedly made by Dorscht. As for the cop? "There was insufficient evidence, at the time, to prove the officer's actions rose to the level of a criminal act," Quezada added.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait followed. "We honor and protect everyone's constitutional right to protect themselves, but violence has no place in our city and will not be tolerated," he said. Tuesday's protests resulted in 23 arrests, all on failure to disperse, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer misdemeanors, though the exact numbers for each charge is unclear. The shooter's home suffered shattered windows. Anti-cop graffiti vandalized the walls of the surrounding neighborhood. "Today I ask for everyone's patience in avoiding any rush to judgement," Tait added, hoping to diffuse the anger.
Assistant LAPD Chief Michael Moore delivered a message on behalf of Chief Charlie Beck in explaining his force's administrative review process. "Upon the Chief's review he will make a report that will be forwarded to the Board of Police Commissioners," Moore stated. The board is comprised of five citizens confirmed by the mayor and appointed by the city council. "[They] will make a determination of whether or not the officer's actions, his use of force, both the use of his firearm as well as the other force he engaged in, were in or out of policy."
The officer in question is currently on administrative leave, but Moore declined to disclose how long the man's been with LAPD and in what capacity. Anaheim police spokesman Daron Wyatt stated that Christian Dorscht's stepfather is an employee of the Anaheim Police Department but isn't a cop as the kid stated in video. He also said that the shooter pulling a gun other than his service weapon has no bearing on the investigation and that he had made previous complaints in the past about kids walking on his property. Anaheim police reported receiving a police phone call from either the off-duty officer or his dad before the viral videos began.
The spokesman didn't disclose the shooter's name to the Weekly on Tuesday and declined similar press inquires yesterday. But the Weekly has since learned through property records and LAPD police financial disclosures that the off-duty cop in question is Kevin J. Ferguson. When reached by phone and asked for comment, Ferguson abruptly hung up, and didn't pick up our follow-up calls. The upper middle-class neighborhood where the scuffle happened remained on police lock down last night, but a neighbor, wishing to remain anonymous, says Ferguson and his family are staying out of town due to safety concerns.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office reports having no investigatory letters regarding any previous on-duty officer-involved shootings mentioning Ferguson. Although he has not been charged with any crime, the Weekly is publishing his name because of the growing level of public interest in the case as well as the fact that it is a highly unusual officer-involved shooting.
After the police press conference wrapped, attorneys Luis and Michael Carrillo held one of their own outside of the department to a swarm of reporters. The two filed twin claims against the city of Anaheim and Los Angeles on behalf of the 13-year-old girl who allegedly stepped on Ferguson's lawn and her teenage older brother also present on the scene.
"If this officer felt that he had a problem, he should have called Anaheim police," Luis Carrillo said. "Don't go out there with your gun and engage the kids. These are teenagers. For heaven's sake, have some common sense!'
The Carrillo law firm is continuing its investigation before taking any action against the shooter, but without any public disclosure, neither attorney knew of his name. In the meantime, they're going after his employer. "As a direct result of the unjustified threat and subsequent unjustified shooting, the present Claimant has suffered extreme emotional distress," the claim reads. It blasts Los Angeles for negligent employment, training, supervision and retention of the officer in question.
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"The 13-year-old was the most affected because when we were talking to her yesterday, she started crying," Luis stated at the press conference. But the girl isn't the only affected party. The Carrillo firm is also suing Anaheim, claiming the girl's older brother was "unjustifiably battered" when thrown to the ground by an officer responding to the scene. "I don't believe that this department will conduct a fair and objective investigation given their history of covering up their own officers' misconduct," Carrillo said.
Down Harbor Boulevard, a protester wearing a luchador mask walked up and down the street with a sign reading, "A gun over grass, really?" Only in Anacrime...