When Kevin Ferguson dragged 13-year-old Christian Dorscht during a now-infamous melee in Anaheim last month, an African-American teen was the first to the youth's aid. Video shows him calmly walking over to Ferguson, who works for the Los Angeles Police Department, and putting his hand on his arm. "Back up!" Ferguson told the teen. Just then, another youth shoved the off-duty cop over a hedge, giving the black kid a chance to pry Dorscht free during the ensuing tug-of-war.
After the teen followed by throwing a punch at Ferguson, the off-duty cop pulled his concealed gun and fired a shot into the ground. When Anaheim police arrived they arrested the 15-year-old African-American sophomore at Loara High School and Dorscht while letting Ferguson go free. "He was an honor student doing an honorable thing," R.J. Manuelian, an LA-based attorney representing the unnamed youth, told the Weekly. "He was defending the 13-year-old, who he thought was being kidnapped."
Walking home to do some school work that afternoon, the teen responded after hearing cries for help. "What drew his attention wasn't on the videos," the attorney says. "It was Christian [Dorscht] on the floor with Ferguson's knee on his back and on his neck." Dorscht reportedly said, "Get off me, I can't breathe," before getting loose and running away until Ferguson caught him. That's when kids in the group started filming the incident on their cell phones.
The situation looked "suspicious" to Manuelian's client, who later told him that Ferguson never once identified himself as a police officer. During a press conference that followed the incident, Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada stated that the off-duty officer didn't shoot at anybody and that there was "insufficient evidence, at the time, to prove the officer's actions rose to the level of a criminal act." On the other hand, Quezada stated there was "compelling evidence" for his officers to arrest Dorscht and his acquaintance, who was released to his parents that evening after being booked for assault and battery.
Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Daron Wyatt also told reporters after the press conference that none of the kids said they felt threatened by Ferguson's gunshot. But Manuelian, who took the case pro bono, paints a different picture. "When the gun was discharged, it missed my client's toes by inches," he says. "It was so close that he felt the grass explode right next to his feet." The attorney also reports that the teen hasn't slept well since the incident with recurring nightmares of a gun pointing and shooting at him. The honors student no longer attends Loara High School and has since transferred out of Anaheim.
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Christian Dorscht and his parents filed a civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson. They also have a claim against the city of Anaheim. Attorneys representing two other teens also filed claims.
When Manuelian contacted the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office, he told them his client was a hero and should be commended for his actions. The lawyer previously won a $6 million verdict against the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in the 2012 excessive force case of Deon Dirks, but wonders if the OCDA will agree with him about his client before pursuing any future legal action. Anaheim police are still conducting their investigation into the incident and have yet to turn the case over.
"We're going to wait and see what the OCDA does first," Manuelian says. "We're giving them the opportunity to do the right thing and drop the case. If they don't, then we will be immediately filing a civil rights lawsuit."