ATTORNEY CALLS FOR “JUSTICE” FOR GRANDMOTHER SHOT IN FOREHEAD WITH PROJECTILE DURING PROTEST AT LA MESA POLICE STATION

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Warning:  contains graphic image
 
By Miriam Raftery, Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Henri Migala
 
View ECM video of press conference: blob:https://www.facebook.com/e539b59a-58f0-45aa-b5ba-a657a7a608eb
 
June 2, 2020 (La Mesa) – Leslie Furcron, 59, a La Mesa resident and grandmother shot in the forehead with a projectile Saturday night during the George Floyd protest at La Mesa Police headquarters, is now in a medically induced coma and may lose an eye, according to her attorney, Dante T. Pride.  

“Ms. Furcron has witnessed decades of racist brutality and harassment by law enforcement,” a letter from Pride to the city of La Mesa sent yesterday states. “She was seeking accountability and justice on behalf of those who have been the victims of needless violence, and tragically, she became another one of those victims. We must now stand up and seek accountability and justice on her behalf.”
 
Pride has asked the city to release the identity of the officer who fired the projectile, which he believes is a beanbag.  He also asks that the officer be removed from duty and prosecuted on criminal charges.  
 
In addition, he calls for an outside investigation into use of force on this and two other recent incidents, one involving an officer shown on video slamming a Helix Charter High School student to the ground, the other a video showing an LMPD officer pushing an argumentative suspect into a sitting position. Pride also calls for institution of a Citizen Review Board to provide oversight of the LMPD, which the City Council has previously approved in concept.
 
Neither the city of La Mesa nor the LMPD have issued any statement yet on the injury to Furcron, though the city council was slated to hold an emergency meeting late this afternoon with their attorney regarding a threat to public safety amid civil unrest that has rocked La Mesa and other communities across the county and the nation.
 
The Sheriff’s department told ECM news partner Times of San Diego that its deputies were not involved in this incident. 
 
During a press conference today outside city hall, Pride contended that proper training of police officers would have thwarted the incident.
 
On his Facebook page, Furcron’s language was more strident. He states that Furcron was exercising her “constitutionally-protected right to peacefully protest and claims that in response, “La Mesa Police Department tried to kill her.”  
 
Reportedly, the department’s policy is to fire projectiles such as rubber bullets only below the waist.  Video posted on social media shows Furcron standing at the time she was struck.  Dante indicates he has examined dozens of videos and found no misconduct.
 
There are multiple reports from media and posts on social media sites indicated that at some point during the late afternoon or early evening, a day of peaceful protesting began to take a violent turn. Some protesters threw bottles at officers, broke windows at the police station, and threw rocks at an LMPD bearcat armored vehicle, but it’s unclear how much of that activity occurred before vs. after Furcron was struck and injured.  
 
ECM photographer Henri Migala was on scene covering the afternoon protest and much of the actions that occurred at the police station, though he did not witness the injury to Furcorn.  
 
After covering a blockade of a nearby freeway during the protest, Migala says he saw billows of what looked like smoke or tear gas around the police station, so he headed there.  
 
“I saw a lot of rubber bullets being fired,” says Migala, whose photos show at least two other people who were struck.  One, who identified himself as a reporter, was struck in the leg.
 
Migala reports he was hit with pepper balls despite attire clearly identifying himself as media.  He says he also saw tear gas canisters, bean bags, pepper balls and flash bang grenades fired at protesters over several hours as afternoon wore into evening.
 

When some protesters encroached close to the vandalized police station, police released a large number of projectiles at once in what Migala describes as. “shock and awe.”  Police came down stairs and out onto the patio in front of their headquarters as “panicked people were running away,” he says. “The police made a line to form a perimeter around their building.”

Later at night, some engaged in looting and vandalism of businesses as well as burning vehicles, two banks and a historic building. But it is not yet known who committed those criminal acts. Black Lives Matter has denounced the looting and fires; some witnesses have said that vehicles arrived after the protest, carrying black-clad individuals some of whom wielded baseball bats and incendiary devices with them. These may have been outside agitators on the far left, far right, or criminal gangs that may not have been part of the original protest.

Though besieged officers may have had concerns over their safety amid an increasingly raucus protest and vandalism of their station, a video on social media aired by CBS showed Furcron sipping from a beverage can that by some accounts she then tossed. She reportedly was taking photos or video with her cell phone when she was struck between the eyes and knocked to the ground, blood streaming from the wound in her forehead in which a white projectile was embedded.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to cover Furcron’s her medical expenses. As of tonight, it has raised more than $100,000. Donations may be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/csgskf-love-and-support-for-leslie.

Rebecca Jefferis Williamson is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer who has covered a wide-variety of subjects ranging from civil protests, community news and features to health issues including Covid-19, PFAS toxins, and Newcastle disease. Besides being a part of the East County Magazine team, she has freelanced for the San Diego Community Newspaper Group, Local Web Media, the Chula Vista Star News, San Diego Family Magazine, Military Press, and a number of other newspapers.

Miriam Raftery, ECM Editor and host of ECM's radio show on KNSJ, has won more than 350 journalism awards for national and regional coverage. Her experience covering major protests, disasters and civil unrest includes the Alfred Olango police shooting in El Cajon anti-war marches in Washington D.C. during the Iraq War, protests over lack of federal resources after Hurricane Katrina, demonstrations by Iraqi-Americans in El Cajon calling on the U.S. to protect Iraqi Chaldean Christians from ISIS terrorists, and two of California's worst wildfires -- the 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County.

East County Magazine thanks the Facebook Journalism Project for support through its COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program to help  sustain reporting on vulnerable local populations and rural communities. Learn more at #FacebookJournalismProject. 

You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.

 


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Comments

Shrug...

You are told to disperse, you are told its an unlawful assembly, and you decided to stay and yell and carry on. Then when the PD uses measures to protect their officers and the police precinct, after they told you to leave, you all call foul. You 100% have the right to protest, you don't however have a right to riot or damage property. Nor do you have the right to break laws while protesting, like blocking freeways and streets. If 30 people were at the precinct protesting peacefully and 1 person in the 100+ people there threw something, spray tagged something, or did any damage to property its OVER. Regardless if you there were 30 people peacefully protesting, be angry with the people in the crowd. When the police say disperse then do so or take your chances of what might happen. Not sure why people keep saying this was a beanbag deployment. Its pretty obvious that there is an entry wound which beanbags do not do due to their surface area. The rubber bullets have to end up someplace, who's to say the round did not bounce off the ground and hit her (my guess as to why they are pushing it was a beanbag)? Who's to say a cop did not scope her out and shoot her right between the eyes? In the chaos no one knows, asking who shot the ONE round that hit a lady in an unlawful assembly is not realistic. At the end of the day, its a horrible event that could had been prevented if the protesters listened and backed away from the precinct.

How other large protests have been ended peacefully

I have covered several other major protests in Washington D.C. and downtown San Diego in the past.  In those rallies, once an unlawful assembly was announced, and people were told to leave or be arrested, police then began to arrest people who stayed and engaged in civil disobedience. They would zip tie the wrists of those arrested and in some cases had rented busses to hold them all. 

As soon as arrests would begin, many people would leave to avoid arrest.  Those who were arrested were detained a few hours, then fined a small amount and released. In DC they gave them all pizza and water on the bus.  In San Diego, the Sheriff once brought in rented charter and as I recall, even some school busses to hold everyone.

Nobody turned violent and no one got hurt.  

By contrast in La Mesa, a Sheriff's helicoper repeatedly warned that anyone who did not leave the station after an unlawful assembly was declared would be arrested. But so far all the witnesses we've talked with say that after those warnings, instead of arresting people still there, the officer unleased a massive volley of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean bags and who knows what else.  

I can't help but wonder how differently this might have ended, perhaps with nobody suffering injuries, if the police had simply arrested a few people right away after the unlawful assembly was delared, instead of shooting projectile into a crowd of people protesting against police violence.