A video released Tuesday shows a Los Angeles Police Department officer at protests over the clearing of the homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake appearing to fire a projectile weapon at protesters who did not pose a physical threat, in violation of the department’s policies.
The video, released by the Los Angeles Times, shows an officer pointing the projectile launcher at protesters nearby as some yell, “Put down your weapon.”
The officer, who has his mask pulled under his nose, says “clear the area” before firing at nearby protesters. A second video shows officers walking toward protesters when one of them, who appears to be the same officer, lunges toward the crowd and fires the weapon in their direction. Another video has audio of the weapon being fired twice.
People have reported serious injuries from projectiles, also called 40-millimeter less-lethal launchers, including a man who reported losing eight teeth and a man who was blinded in one eye last year.
The Los Angeles Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident occurred while police were responding to protests last week against the city’s plan to remove about 200 residents from Echo Park Lake and close the park for what Councilman Mitch O’Farrell described as $500,000 worth of repairs. During protests Thursday night, 182 people were arrested, and at least five journalists, including the Los Angeles Times’ James Queally, were briefly detained.
The Los Angeles Police Department prohibits officers from firing projectiles at protesters who are not a physical threat or at people at close range. The video released Wednesday does not show any evident threat to officers from the protesters, who police appeared to be trying to disperse.
Councilman Mike Bonin last week called the police department’s response to protests “a disgrace.”
“A neighborhood in lockdown. Hundreds of cops in riot gear. Reporters being zip-tied and detained. Protesters being kettled and arrested. This is a disgrace and it did not have to happen. It’s a shameful day for Los Angeles,” he said.
Many neighbors had complained about the group’s trash and said they no longer felt safe visiting the park, and city officials said multiple deaths and instances of sexual abuse had occurred in the encampment.
The protests came about two weeks after a report commissioned by the City Council found that the Los Angeles Police Department mishandled various aspects of last spring’s mass demonstrations sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The report, which was conducted by a half-dozen former members of the LAPD, found that officers collectively employed a “significant amount” of less lethal tools, including batons, bean bag shotguns, stringer grenades and 37mm and 40mm launchers, which some officers were not properly trained to use.
Protesters reported being struck in the face and head and sustaining significant injuries, with some requiring surgery. A number of lawsuits were filed, alleging plaintiffs were injured by police while peacefully protesting.
“Not all people struck with less lethal munitions during the protests were engaging in criminal behavior,” the report says. “This appears to be in part due to the complex and rapid movement of the crowds and at times a lack of adequate training on the 40mm system.”
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