State attorney general urged to probe Anaheim police shootings
A day after hundreds of people gathered outside Anaheim police headquarters to protest fatal officer-involved shootings, community organizers called on state Attorney General Kamala Harris to conduct an investigation of the Anaheim Police Department.
Residents and community leaders held up signs and gave rousing speeches outside the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles on Monday afternoon before delivering more than 17,000 digital signatures to Harris’ office.
During the course of the 30-minute news conference, two women who said their sons were killed by Anaheim police embraced in tears, while speakers admonished the department for its aggression.
“The level of crimes, the level of abuse, calls for a multi-agency engagement to look into this systemic abuse that’s been happening,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, the national organization and website that collected the signatures.
“We’re seeing an agency that is trying to intimidate the community," he continued. "We’re seeing a police agency that’s rogue and broken, and needs to be reformed. That’s the most frustrating piece–-that these guys don’t get it.”
The move to involve the state attorney general comes just days after the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI agreed to conduct an independent review of the July 21 fatal police shooting of Manuel Diaz, a 25-year-old documented gang member.
Authorities have said Diaz was unarmed and was avoiding arrest when he was shot. A day later, Anaheim police fatally shot Joel Acevedo, 21, who authorities said had fired on officers during a foot chase.
A third officer-involved shooting--in which police opened fire Friday on a burglary suspect, who was unhurt--was the city's seventh such shooting this year, five of which have been fatal. The city had four officer-involved shootings in all of 2011.
In response, residents and members of outside organizations planned a protest Sunday, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Orange County's largest city.
The demonstration stretched long into the afternoon, with more than 200 protesters initially chanting in front of police headquarters and taking over a parking lot where they drew chalk outlines of bodies and wrote messages condemning the police.
The protest took a dramatic turn when the crowd began marching en masse on Harbor Boulevard, saying they were headed to Disneyland. But police in riot gear corraled them, and many returned to police headquarters.
Authorities made nine arrests in connection with the protests, according to Anaheim police. Eight of them—including three men from San Bernardino, Escondido and San Diego—were arrested when, police said, they failed to disperse or they blocked traffic after authorities told them to get out of the street. A woman was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an employee and customers at a nearby gas station.
Organizers hoped the demonstration would remain peaceful. Just days before, a mass protest forced police to use non-lethal rounds to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 who marched through the streets after a packed City Council meeting. Some protesters threw rocks, bricks and other objects at officers and started fires in trash bins. By Tuesday night's end, authorities said, 24 protesters had been arrested, 20 buildings damaged and seven people injured.
-- Matt Stevens
Photo: Anaheim resident Barbara Padilla, left, tearfully pleads for California State Attorney General Kamala Harris to conduct a full investigation of the Anaheim Police Department during a press conference in Los Angeles. Padilla's son Marcel Ceja was shot and killed by the Anaheim PD nine months ago. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times