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Prosecutors won't charge LAPD officers in immigration march melee at MacArthur Park [Updated]

October 30, 2009 | 12:17 pm


The Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced today it would not file criminal charges against any LAPD officers for their actions during the 2007 May Day melee at MacArthur Park.

Prosecutors said in a statement that after a lengthy review, there was insufficient evidence to prove any officer violated the law when using force, although some might have used "questionable tactics."

They described the incident as "unfortunate and preventable" but said that the office was "closing our file and will take no further action in this matter."

Last year, Police Chief William J. Bratton said he planned to discipline 11 officers and called for the termination of four others for their roles in the melee in which police were accused of using excessive force to clear immigration rights demonstrators and journalists.

LAPD officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse a largely peaceful crowd. A scathing internal investigation into the incident blamed poor leadership and overly aggressive tactics by officers in the field.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay nearly $13 million to people injured or mistreated in the melee.

Under the settlement, the department must submit to court oversight of its crowd-control procedures -- another layer of federal involvement that comes as LAPD leaders are impatient to be free of a longstanding and more onerous monitoring program imposed after the Rampart Division corruption scandal.

[Updated at 12:32 p.m.: Prosecutors reviewed an extensive LAPD investigation into 30 officers that including 7,500 pages of documents.

Prosecutors said that the series of events led to actions by officers against "both violent protesters and nonviolent protesters and media personnel."

"The media had innocently and unwittingly positioned themselves in an area directly in the path of officers attempting to clear the park," the report noted. However, prosecutors noted, "not every push or shove amounts to excessive force We cannot establish that any particular officer's actions were unreasonable or without lawful necessity in light of the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances."

Prosecutors added that identity "is a factor which must be proven beyond reasonable doubt."

The LAPD officers union praised the decisions. Union President Paul Weber said the distict attorney's review "sought only truth and justice, and was not influenced by any political agenda."]

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Police at MacArthur Park during May Day protest in 2007. Credit: Los Angeles Times file.

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