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La Mesa Announces Investigation On Police Response The Night Of Protests

A still image from the La Mesa Police Department's critical incident video of...

Credit: La Mesa Police Department

Above: A still image from the La Mesa Police Department's critical incident video of a protest on May 30 in La Mesa released July 22, 2020.

UPDATE: 8:34 p.m. Aug. 13, 2020:

The La Mesa town hall on Thursday night invited members of the community to ask questions and comment on the riots that occurred on the night of May 30th.

City officials announced that an independent investigation is being made into the possible misconduct of police officers on the night of the protests. The investigation is expected to take between 3 to 6 months.

The completed report will be forwarded to the Chief of Police for review and further discipline.

Chief of police Walt Vasquez gave an update on the case of Leslie Furcron, who was shot in the head by police with a bean bag. The case has been forwarded to the District Attorney for review.

Vasquez also gave an update on the case of Amaurie Johnson, who was arrested at a trolley station and the event was caught on video. He said that Johnson’s case was not forwarded to the District Attorney, but that the arresting officer is no longer part of the La Mesa Police Department.

A news release announcing the retirement of Chief Vasquez was sent out at the same time of the town hall. La Mesa City Council members learned of the announcement during the meeting. The retirement will be effective August 27, 2020.

Original Story:

The city of La Mesa will hold a town hall meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss the events of May 30, when violence erupted following peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

City officials are still trying to put the pieces together, after a day of protests turned into rioting, with businesses damaged and two banks burned down.

The community is invited to participate in the virtual town hall meeting as city officials provide updates on the incidents of that night and welcome questions and comments.

Items on the agenda include updates on the police incidents involving Amaurie Johnson and Leslie Furcron.

Protests on the day of May 30, 2020, began as crowds rallied over the detention of Amaurie Johnson who was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer. The encounter was videotaped and appeared on social media.

Charges against Johnson were dropped, and he has filed a lawsuit against the city and the arresting officer, who no longer works for the city.

Protesters initially took over the La Mesa Police Department parking lot before blocking Interstate 8 in both directions.

California Highway Patrol officers wearing face shields stood in a line across the freeway meeting head-on with protesters.

As crowds dispersed from the freeway, events escalated when protesters threw rocks and bottles at police cars and police headquarters. Officers fired back with flash-bang grenades and tear gas.

Leslie Furcron was shot in the head by a bean bag round during the exchange and suffered injuries.

Furcron filed a lawsuit seeking the release of the name of the officer-involved and the body-worn camera footage.

La Mesa Police Department identified the officer as Detective Eric Knudson, who is currently on paid administrative leave while the incident is being investigated.

Camera footage released shows Furcron throwing an empty aluminum can in the parking lot of LMPD headquarters before being hit by the bean bag round and falling to the ground.

Several nearby businesses were broken into and looted. Chase and Union banks in downtown La Mesa were set on fire before officers cleared protesters out.

The events of May 30 follow the death of George Floyd that have sparked national outrage and Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country.

La Mesa officials have launched their own investigation to look into the events of that night and how they got so out of hand.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the La Mesa City Council has hired Hillard Heintze, LLC to look into what fueled the civil unrest that led to law enforcement confrontations with the crowd.

The company is expected to provide a full report to the council in December.

Hillard Heintze has experience with past mass shootings, protests involving local police and community members, and most recently, the Breonna Taylor incident in Louisville.

Today’s town hall meeting can be attended virtually, but the city is allowing for some in-person public comment by going to the La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center. Social distancing and facial coverings are strongly encouraged.

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Tania Thorne
Freelance Reporter

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