LESLIE FURCRON SAID SHE WAS ENTERING A “RIOT” AND CALLED TO “BURN” DOWN LA MESA POLICE STATION BEFORE SHE WAS SHOT WITH BEANBAG

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By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Chris Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

June 20, 2020 (La Mesa) – The attorney for Leslie Furcron, the woman shot in the head with a beanbag projectile May 30 outside the La Mesa Police station, has characterized her as a “peaceful” protester. A police incident narration claims she threw an object at Sheriff’s officers before she was fired at from 40 yards and struck in the head with the beanbag. While it is unclear on her cell phone video whether she threw an object or not, what is clear is that she, or someone narrating the video taken on her cell phone, advocated burning down the police station while she was in the car driving to the station.

Furcron, a grandmother who lives in Lemon Grove according to the Registrar of Voters records, suffered serious injury. She was hospitalized in an induced coma and later released, but has lost her vision in one eye, according to her attorney. 

Speaking to media after her release, Furcron stated, “I’m a productive member of society, I go to San Diego City College and I had a job as a care provider, but now I will need to get help to get cared for. This is not what I had planned – I’ve lived here in La Mesa for three years now. I’m a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother and a law-abiding citizen.” (Note: The Registrar of Voters lists her address in Lemon Grove.) 

Police procedure requires that beanbags only be aimed at the torso, around the midsection of the body – never at the head. It is unclear why Furcron was struck in the head, though her lawyer has contended she was targeted for calling police “murderers.”

Some have suggested that since she just arrived at the station minutes before being struck, perhaps she was unaware that the situation had escalated into a dangerous confrontation.

However, the video makes clear that she clearly was aware of going into a dangerous situation and further, she or whoever’s voice is heard on her live-streamed video may have incited violence including advocating burning down the police station. 

A police timeline confirmed by multiple media reports indicate that shortly before Furcron appeared at the police station, city hall had been set on fire, along with the American legion flag.  Rocks were being thrown at police vehicles and at the police station, rocks, bottles and burning Molotov cocktail bottle bombs had been hurled at officers and/or the station. Demonstrators had climbed onto a police Bearcat armored vehicle and broken windows.

Furcron’s video begins as she is driving into downtown La Mesa.  She, or someone in her vehicle, can be heard stating, “We’re in a riot in La Mesa!”  She, or whoever is narrating, talks about [tear] “gas everywhere” and “eyes stinging.”

She repeatedly calls police “motherf*ckers” and “murderers, “ stating, “People are pissed.”

She then states, “They are trying to burn the La Mesa Police station down…Burn that motherf*cker down!”

The narrator believed to be Furcron blames police for the death of George Floyd and others, stating, “Y’all got the foot on the neck! Y’all killing our people….Look at all the people out here ‘cause they trying to burn the police station down…I wish the police would apprehend me today.”

As she pulls up to the station, she states, “Look at all the cops up there…they ready to pop bullets out there.” She parks and says she’s going to the station, describing herself as a “mad motherfucking black” woman, adding, “Police are doing too much mother*cking killing. Tear all this shit up!”

She shouts out the window of her vehicle repeatedly, “Murderers! The police are murderers!”

As she walks in, the video captures the sights and sounds of multiple rounds of projectiles being fired.  “They’re murderers. They’re throwing tear gas. The murderers are all over,” she or whoever is narrating the video states.”

She questions, “Did you see them throw that?” but it’s unclear if she is referring to police throwing something or protesters throwing objects at police.  “They’re getting ready to shoot again!” She shouts.

Around 10 and a half minutes into her video, the footage shows Furcron drinking from a gold-colored tall can, then raising an arm, but it does not show her hands. It is unclear whether she threw or dropped the can, or anything else.  

Within seconds she is struck in the head; the cell phone is dropped and soon goes dark, but voices around her can be heard screaming as people in the crowd rush to her aid. Someone says they got her cell phone. According to the police timeline, she is carried out by protesters and rushed to a hospital.

View her cell phone video here (warning, graphic language and images): 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKD70fvsaOk&feature=youtu.be

ECM has asked the La Mesa Police Department to release surveillance video outside the Police Station and body camera footage of the incident.

La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez issued this statement:  La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez released the following statement Wednesday regarding the incident:  “I am sincerely thankful that Ms. Furcron has been released from the hospital and is able to now heal at home with her family. I pray that she has a speedy and full recovery. I can assure Ms. Furcron, her family, and the public that this unfortunate incident will be fully investigated, to include an in-depth look at our crowd control practices. The men and women of the La Mesa Police Department work tirelessly to provide quality and professional police services for all members of our community. Our hope is that we will all come together to heal the wounds, nurture a culture of open communication, and make the City of La Mesa a better and safer place to live.”

 

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Comments

Validity of Video?

Just curious. 1. how did you find out about the video? 2. have you seen it yourself or did someone else tell you what was on it? 3. if the latter, did you obtain independent confirmation? 4. if you saw the video, was it clipped, how much of it did you see?

I've already commented on the police report, may have thrown something, maybe not.

Yes I've seen the video. Our story has link. See for yourself.

It was previously published on her site and removed. I'd seen parts of it before it disappeared.  Like many of the videos that night that were removed by social media or users, various people who saw them downloaded copies for safekeeping.  Our story links to one of those.  The video appears authentic based on what I recally seeing previously.

Live Streaming???

@ miriam

I really doubt at the time the police were monitoring live streaming, so shooting her in the head had nothing to do with this. And, it would depend on the jury. How would you feel if you had been mistreated, seen friends mistreated, if you had kids, seeing them being mistreated, at risk of prison, of being killed, ALL OF YOUR LIFE. Try to put yourself in her position. And since police didn't know about her live streaming, revealing it would possibly prejudice the jury. Only what the police saw at the time is relevant.

But, again, shooting her in the head had nothing to do with her live broadcasting. And even if the police had known about it, simply arresting her would have been all that was called for.

There was NO EXCUSE FOR SHOOTING HER IN THE HEAD and, just as with George Floyd, bringing up information to try to mitigate it just more points that, at least some in police don't get it. The police officer who shot her should be suspended, investigated, and prosecuted.

And as I wrote, this nation has a long history of overkill. On a per capita basis we have the highest murder rate among next 20 modern industrialized democracies and the highest by far police killing among them, including killing unarmed people. We have 5% of world's population; yet almost 25% of prisoners. We have, as far as I've been able to tell, the only for-profit prison system. And we have a system extremely biased against admitting mistakes. The various innocence projects can only take on a few cases per year as it takes sometimes decades to get an innocent person released and it is estimated that approximately 100,000 of prisoners are totally innocent, most blacks. And if released from prison we don't give them a second chance, can't even go live with wife and kids in subsidized housing.

Just imagining I could have been born black, same loving family, and how my life would have been different makes me shudder. When I read about George Floyd, I didn't focus on his being black, just put myself in his place.

So, no, burning down anything, vandalizing, not acceptable; but while wrong, understandable; but still doesn't justify what happened to her. Trigger happy cop?

The city has said it will fund an independent investigation

of all of the protest and riot responses, as well as the police department's own investigation. 

I did ask police why they did not simply arrest people after the unlawful assembly was declared before Mrs. Furcron arrived.  They said it was unsafe for police to do so, as by that time there had been flaming Molotov cocktails (bottle bombs/explosives) thrown at the police station, rocks thrown and more. Reporters including Times of San Diego's editor witnessed protesters throwing rocks at the station and at a Bearcat armored vehicle, breaking windows on the armored vehicle with officers inside and climbing onto it.  Does that sound like a safe situation to send officers out into?  There are two sides (or more) to every story and while protesters should never be targeted in the head and had every right, even a duty to speak out against racial injustices, the police options were growing more limited as the violence worsened. By this time they were also getting calls of other problems around town that needed a police response and they could not safely get out of the station to respond to things like vandalism, a fire at city hall, vehicle fires, and looting starting to occur. 

Could there have been a better, safer way to end this?  Might the organizers themselves have encouraged people to go home after making their protesters' points, as was done two weeks later after the motorcycle rally?  Might the police have been better prepared with busses for peaceful mass arrests for civil disobedience?  Did the county's mutual response system fail to get adequate reinforcements to La Mesa in a timely manner, leaving local PD and some Sheriff deputies on their own as they became overwhelmed?  Do those who engaged in throwing rocks or bottles or burning objects bear some responsibility, too?  Many questions yet to be answered.

We have a very extensive public records request out that among other things includes asking to see external surveillance video and body cam footage of this incident and what preceeded  it, as well as mutual response requests and the answers received.

 

Nothing in Miriam's article justifies being shot in the head.

I strongly disagree with Darren and to some extent Miriam’s article.

As Miriam wrote: “Police procedure requires that beanbags only be aimed at the torso, around the midsection of the body – never at the head.”

First, advocating in a car burning down a police station is not a crime. If she actually had been on the ground exhorting people directly to do so, another story.
Second, being angry, not just because of George Floyd; but a long and continued history of mistreatment of blacks, especially given her thoughts towards her own experiences and risks to her family, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, her anger is understandable. Being angry, expressing it verbally, is NOT a crime.

As for she may or may not have thrown something, if so, probably an aluminum can, still NOT grounds for shooting her in the head!!!

Darren777 writes: “This suspect/victim grandmother who chose to enter a riot zone . .  Not too responsible. You chose violence Leslie, and thus it appears you paid a heavy price.”

At the time there were both violent and peaceful demonstrators; but, regardless, nothing justifies that she was shot in the head. I have tried during my life to understand what it would be like to be black. I won’t go through my entire history; but, probably, the thing that affected me most was reading in my early teen years John Howard Griffin’s book “Black Like Me.” He used a chemical and sunlamps to darken his skin and travelled through the South in the late 1950s. He was grossly mistreated, threatened, etc. Same person, just darker skin. Currently, I am re-reading Stephen J. Gould’s book “The Mismeasure of Man (2nd ed).” He totally debunks beliefs that races, ethnic groups, social classes can be ranked by intelligence or other genetic traits. And in doing it he shows just how either conscious or unconscious bias resulted in entirely bogus research findings.

Since reading Griffin’s book I have followed most of my life, from the Civil Rights movement (joined campus protests) to our current War on Drugs resulting in far more blacks in prison, despite whites using and selling drugs at similar rates, and our SWAT squad no knock warrants.

Bottom line, though I don’t advocate burning down police stations, I can try, not having lived it, to understand her anger and anger and shouting are not criminal acts

My problem with Miriam’s article is that it doesn’t make clear that what she said in the car is irrelevant, even if the police were aware of it, which they weren’t, and calling the police murderers is not a crime and even if, I say if, because police sometimes do try to justify the unjustifiable, she threw an aluminum can it still was WRONG to shoot her in the head. In a way, Miriam’s article follows Minneapolis police releasing George Floyd’s criminal record and autopsy finding TRACE amounts of drugs, as if this justified to any extent his extra judicial brutal murder.

This nation has a long troubled history of violence, mainly against black; but violence against people of all colors.  Kent State, Mississipi State. Oakland police pepper spraying people peacefully sitting and protesting (peppar spray at close distance can cause permanent eye and lung damage). In late 1920s, peaceful demonstrations in East Chicago ended with a number of white deaths. Police claimed fired in self-defense; but early film showed them chasing demonstrators, shooting them in the back and even when they were lying on the ground

So, no, she had every right to go to protest, to shout, and in privacy of car to advocate burning police station down. Only if she had actually exhorted people to directly do it would she have been guilty of a crime. And given what I, as a white, know about the lives of black Americans, her anger is justified, even if many police are not racists, they still traditionally have defended fellow officers, even if they privately think their behavior was wrong. Being angry, calling people names are NOT crimes. There is NO excuse for her being shot in the head! ! !

If you advocate violence while live-streaming on social media,

could that be construed as the same as advocating violence to a crowd?  It's not just a private statement made in a vehicle when broadcast on a public social media platform where people are watching and listening in real time. That argument might be made, thought I am not an attorney. None of that is legal justification to shoot someone in the head, but it would negate the argument that a protester had only peaceful intentions, and further advocating  a specific act of violence on social media amid a riot might be construed as a crime. Also if there were to be a civil suit, those are factors a jury might weigh in determining damages.

As for the George Floyd case, trace amounts of drugs found in an autopsy after he died would seem to have no bearing on the action of the officers. They did not know if he was taking drugs and his actions toward the officers was never violent or threatening. Even if they knew of his criminal record, that does not justify killing him. He was suspected only of passing a fake $20 billion and we don't even know if he was aware it was counterfeit.  There were four officers there. Floyd was unarmed. They did not try any less-lethal methods to restrain and arrest him. Moreover, even after he was unconscious and had no pulse, the officer continued to kneel on Floyd's neck for several minutes more until he was dead without seeking medical help. That's cold-blooded murder in my view and in the view of the millions across America who have marched after seeing such an outrage. 

Thank you Miriam for your factual and objective reporting!

I appreciate this article very much from East County Magazine, and Miriam. I believe you present the two sides of this issue, unlike many other reporters who will only report the biased one side. This suspect/victim grandmother who chose to enter a riot zone, put her own grandchildren at risk by them potentially losing their grandmother--how responsible was that Leslie Furcron? Not too responsible. You chose violence Leslie, and thus it appears you paid a heavy price. You would have been better off that night staying at home, instead of agitating the situation in La Mesa.