A federal judge Monday issued orders restricting the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of 40mm and 37mm projectile launchers against crowds of protesters, allowing their use only against people who pose a clear threat of serious bodily harm to others.
The order comes after Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles filed a new request for a temporary restraining order against the LAPD in light of a March 25 protest in Echo Park and a March 13 demonstration in Hollywood in which police and protesters clashed and a member of the press was struck by a projectile and knocked out, suffering a concussion, according to court documents.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall granted BLM-LA’s request to halt the LAPD’s use of the so-called “less lethal” weapons in public demonstrations “except when deployed by officers that are properly trained.” She also restricted police from “aiming the weapons at the upper bodies of demonstrators at close range within five feet.”
The judge further ordered that LAPD must give a verbal warning to disperse, consistent with the department’s use of force directive, and allow protesters a reasonable opportunity to comply before deploying a 40mm or 37mm launcher, “except when an officer is attacked.”
An LAPD spokeswoman said that according to policy, the department does not comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office said the office was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.
In court filings, BLM-LA cited a report prepared by a team of former LAPD commanders headed by attorney Gerald Chaleff that found a variety of failures in how the LAPD had handled the unrest last summer, including poor planning, scant training on the launchers wielded against protesters, and a broader “chaos of command.”
BLM-LA is suing the LAPD over its handling of the 2020 protests, alleging that police brutalized protesters with hard foam bullets and batons and trampled on their rights.
Subsequent to a telephonic status conference last Friday in the lawsuit, the LAPD submitted video evidence showing how to load and use the 40mm launcher and a video of officers simulating a “skirmish line” while using the 37mm weapon. The department also submitted LAPD’s Use of Force Tactics Directive, which includes the department’s policy and protocols for using the launchers.
Marshall wrote that prior to issuing her order, she considered the declaration of freelance photojournalist Christian Monterrosa, who attended the Echo Park demonstration. Monterrosa says he was shot in the chest at close range by a projectile while trying to move away from officers.
An exhibit attached to the declaration appears to show an LAPD officer aiming his weapon at the photographer from about three or four feet away. Another photo apparently shows the resulting injury to his chest.