Protests broke out overnight in southern California after a cell phone video emerged showing an off duty LAPD officer drawing and discharging his firearm while trying to forcibly remove a teenager from his private property. The incident comes during a time of increased distrust between minority groups and police officers, fueled by a series of high profile police shootings which those minority groups don’t consider to have been justified.
The question in this case: what the heck happened?
According to reports, the incident actually began quite some time ago. The officer in question had become frustrated with the high number of teenagers entering his private property and crossing his lawn in order to get to their school. While the normal response might have been to put up a fence or get a mean dog, the officer apparently decided to go all Gran Torino on the teenagers to try and force them off his lawn.
Exactly what happened before the start of the video is still disputed, but the video opens with the teenagers being confronted by the off duty police officer. The officer attempts to forcibly remove the teenagers by himself, and at one point deciding to draw his firearm after being struck by at least one of them.
California does have a “castle doctrine” law which gives residents greater freedom in the use of force for those defending their home, but in this case the incident occurred outside where the normal self defense laws apply. In California, deadly force is only allowed to be used if the individual is in imminent threat of physical harm — and even then, they’re required to employ “no more force than necessary” to defend themselves.
In the video there is a moment where the crowd decides to attack the police officer, pushing him over a hedge and into a neighboring driveway. This happens well after the officer had initiated contact by grabbing the teenager and attempting to apprehend him by himself. Possibly in an attempt to control the crowd and keep himself from coming to harm the officer draws his weapon and then continues to grapple with the teenager.
During the struggle a gunshot is heard. No injuries have been reported. What happened?
The officer is seen drawing his firearm and then uses both of his hands to attempt to pull the teenager over a hedge. It’s likely that in attempting to pull the teen over the hedge, the officer accidentally placed his finger on the trigger of his firearm causing it to discharge.
We’re sure to hear much more about this incident as both sides tell their stories. But I think most gun owners can understand what caused the negligent discharge — the officer improperly handled his firearm. He’s extremely fortunate that no one was struck by the stray round.
Should the officer have called for backup and waited for them to arrive? Perhaps a fence would indeed have been an easier solution? I’m sure the comment section below will be rife with better ideas of how to handle this situation, and we can all learn from what happened here.