USA Justice First Look

Hundreds protest in Anaheim after off-duty cop fires shot in altercation with teens

Video footage of an off-duty cop struggling with a teen in Anaheim, Calif., and eventually firing a gun has sparked outrage both locally and across the nation, spurring protesters to take to the streets Wednesday night. 

Protesters hold signs in front of an LAPD officer's home in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday. The officer is under investigation after a video appears to show him firing a single round during an off-duty tussle with a 13-year-old boy. No one was injured but two teenagers were arrested after the incident, which spurred dozens of people to protest against police Wednesday night in the streets of Anaheim, where the officer lives and the confrontation occurred.
Joshua Sudock/The Orange County Register/AP
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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday to express their outrage after a video surfaced that appears to show a local police officer roughing a young teen and eventually firing his weapon.

The protest followed a Tuesday incident, in which an off-duty, white Los Angeles police officer allegedly fired shots in an altercation with a group of Latino teenagers who had walked across his lawn. Footage of the incident, which contains explicit language, shows the man struggling with a 13-year-old boy after he accused the man of cursing at a girl in the group.

"The little kid said, 'I'm going to sue you,' and then the guy thought he said, 'I'm going to shoot you.' That's when he started grabbing the little kid," Gregory Perez, 16, told The Orange County Register.

In the video, the man drags the boy across the yard as he repeatedly says he never threatened to shoot and tells him that he’s only 13 years old. When the off-duty officer refuses to release him, another teen joins the struggle, trying to pull the boy back. Those attempts fail, prompting a third to tackle the man, who keeps one hand on the young boy as he pulls a gun from his waistband, crouches, and fires a single shot.

The camera pans away as the group of teens runs down the street. Authorities say the shot was not fired in the direction of the teens.

The incident comes at a time when tensions between police officers and minority communities remain high following several years marked by high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men and teens, sometimes as young as the boy in the video. Generally, those shootings have occurred as on-duty police officers respond to reports of crimes that fall within the scope of their duty, rather than in-person altercations while off the clock.

The 13-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of criminal threats and battery along with a 15-year-old boy taken into custody on suspicion of assault and battery. The second was later released.

The off-duty officer, whose name has not yet been released, was pulled aside by authorities and interviewed but not arrested at the scene.

The video, which was posted to YouTube Wednesday, sparked outrage in the community. Viewers sent a flood of calls and emails to the Anaheim Police Department to express their concern regarding the video.

“Calling and sending emails to APD voicing your displeasure will NOT impact the outcome,” the department said in a statement. “A decision whether or not to file charges rests with the District Attorney's office and is based on facts and evidence.”

That night, hundreds of protesters took to the Anaheim streets, blocking intersections and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Whose streets, our streets” as they weaved through residential neighborhoods.

"It could have been me, my friend or someone from my family," Jocelyne Gutierrez, a 21-year-old protester, told The Los Angeles Times.

While the majority of protesters remained peaceful, some resorted to violence, the L.A. Times reported. Some cursed at police while others threw rocks or kicked police cruisers. Many flocked to the officer’s home.

Police arrested two dozen protesters who refused to disperse, including six juveniles.

Both the Anaheim and Los Angeles police departments say they have opened investigations into the officer’s role in the incident.

“We will continue to conduct the internal investigation to determine the actions of the officer and the circumstances,” Capt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department told the L.A. Times, “and then we’ll consult with the Orange County district attorney as well to determine if there’s any issues.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.