Hundreds Protest Anaheim Arrest of Teens in Confrontation with Off-Duty LAPD Officer

Thy Vo Voice of OC

Officers from several different police agencies form a line at the intersection of Euclid Ave. and Palais Road. More than a hundred officers were at the scene of the protest.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and a city board responsible for hearing public grievances Thursday will address the controversy created by a confrontation between an off-duty Los Angeles police officer, who apparently fired his gun, and a group of teens that led to a demonstration by more than 200 people and the arrest of 23.

At least 100 police officers from multiple agencies, many in riot gear, descended on the neighborhood Wednesday night, forming a skirmish line that blocked off the intersection of Euclid and Palais Road.

Anaheim Police Department spokesman Sgt. Daron Wyatt said  Thursday 18 adults and five minors were detained at the demonstration on misdemeanor charges of battery, resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.

Although he was not able to provide a list of cities that sent officers to the scene, officers were seen from Fullerton, Garden Grove and the Sheriff's Department.

Cell phone video taken by a bystander Wednesday shows 13-year-old Christian Dorscht, who was identified by his parents to the OC Weekly, struggling to escape the grip of the officer, who was holding onto the boy’s arm and hoodie.

The demonstrations led Tait to call a news conference regarding the incident for 1 p.m. Thursday.

The city’s Public Safety Board, which is responsible for hearing public grievances and overseeing the city’s public safety policies, will meet Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The City Council will hear a report about the efficacy of the board at their meeting on Feb. 28.

Video of the confrontation between the off-duty officer and the teens has been widespread on social media and the focus of regional television news reports.

According to a statement released by the Anaheim Police Department, the dispute, which occurred around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, occurred in front of the officer’s home, where there were “ongoing issues with juveniles walking across the officer’s property.”

In the video, which does not show the entire altercation, a number of teens following the scene urge the man to let go of Dorscht. When one teen tries to pull Dorscht free, another teen shoves the man over a hedge. During the ensuing struggle, the officer pulled a gun from his waistband and a shot is heard, although the video doesn't clearly show him pulling the trigger.

According to the Orange County Register, Dorscht is facing charges of criminal threats and battery for allegedly threatening to shoot the officer, although his father told the Weekly that he threatened to “sue” not “shoot” the officer. The 15-year-old who tried to pull Dorscht free was charged with assault and battery.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement Wednesday evening calling the officer's actions "grossly irresponsible" and calling on the LAPD to investigate the incident.

"[The ACLU] also calls on the Anaheim Police Department to provide a full explanation of why, in an altercation between the police officer and youths, the youths were arrested but not the officer who fired his gun," the statement reads.

Television news reported the dispute began when the teens walked across the officer's lawn after being repeatedly warned not to do it. On an early section of the video, Dorscht appears to be saying the confrontation was triggered by an insult the officer leveled at a girl.

By 7 p.m. Wednesday, dozens of people had gathered in the neighborhood, some with signs and others with their faces covered by masks and bandanas.

There was an outpouring of anger and frustration from the protesters, mostly teenagers, who chanted slogans like “don’t shoot the children” and “no justice, no peace, no racist police.”

At one point protesters gathered in front of the officer’s home, shouting “come out pig.”

The city has struggled to contain a climate of unrest and mistrust of the police since 2012, when hundreds of people protested in front of City Hall after a spate of police-involved shootings left two Latino men dead.

Many repeated the mantra of Black Lives Matter -- “hands up, don’t shoot" -- a national movement that emerged in response to police-involved shootings of minorities, mostly African American men.

A young woman at the protest who only would identify herself as Karla, said she was "very disappointed" over how the Anaheim Police Department handled the protest and questioned whether the show of force was necessary.

"I'm nauseous and very sad," she said.

Although most of the protesters were peaceful, some reportedly threw rocks at police. "Fuck APD" was scratched onto a black car in the officer's driveway and "Fuck Pigs" was painted in red on the garage door of a neighbor.

Between the outpouring of emotion, some sought to keep the crowd calm. A man speaking through a loud speaker urged the crowd to be calm and united.

“This is our community, these are our streets, y’all be proud of yourself tonight,” he said.

Around 9 p.m., he tried to disperse the crowd, and urged them to leave before the protest became a public nuisance.

“We made our point, now let’s roll out,” he said. “Everybody look out for each other tonight.”

Most of the protesters, however, stayed and congregated at the intersection of Euclid and Palais, holding signs and chanting as police continued to arrive at the scene. Some teens pushed on a bus on Euclid Street and hit it with skateboard.

Around 9:40 p.m., a helicopter circling above the scene gave dispersal orders: “If you can hear my voice, you’re not leaving, pretty good chance you’re going to jail."

Crowds chanted "whose streets? Our streets!"

Just after 11 p.m., dozens of Anaheim police moved along Euclid Street, clearing what remained of the crowd.

Those who refused to leave would be subject to arrest, said police spokesman Wyatt.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on  Twitter @thyanhvo. Spencer Custodio and Nick Gerda contributed to this story.