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La Mesa Mayor Reflects On Recent Protests And Damage: ‘We’ll Never Move Past This’

Small flames still burn at Chase bank location on Spring Street in La Mesa th...

Photo by Joe Hong

Above: Small flames still burn at Chase bank location on Spring Street in La Mesa the morning after destructive protests, May 31, 2020.

Tuesday, La Mesa city officials released a recap of what led up to violence and looting after a protest march on May 30.

"We will continue to improve and ensure to the best of our ability that something of this nature doesn't happen again," La Mesa police Chief Walt Vasquez said.

On May 30, people were out protesting the death of George Floyd and the controversial arrest of a black man just days earlier by La Mesa police near the Grossmont Trolley Station.

LMPD said an unlawful assembly was declared that Saturday evening, but it’s unclear if some protesters heard that. Officials said when rocks started to be thrown at officers sheriff's deputies deployed tear gas. Bean bag rounds were also used, but some were injured in the chaos including 59-year-old Leslie Furcron who was hit in the face.

RELATED: Charges Dropped Against Black Man In Controversial Arrest In La Mesa

Reported by Matt Hoffman

Vasquez was asked Tuesday if he is comfortable with his department's response to protestors.

"It’s always very complicated — without a doubt — I mean truly it is and all the use of force incidents are documented and being reviewed," he said.

Multiple businesses were looted and two banks were burnt the ground.

"We’ll never move past this," La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said. "This will always be a benchmark and this will be the area from where we go from."

Arapostathis said a lot of change is needed and it’s time to be unconventional.

"What I’ve been telling people is nothing is off the table," he said.

San Diego resident KC Short organized the May 30 protest in La Mesa said he left before looting and destruction broke out. He said he hopes officials are being honest when they say it is time for change.

"If there’s no type of communication between the people that have the power to make the change and the people who want change then nothing is going to be solved with all these protests," Short said.

A full report on the La Mesa demonstrations and how it was handled by police is months away.

"We’re talking at least a six- to 12-month process to develop [an] after-action report," Vasquez said.

He said he wants to hear from protesters.

"We need to sit down, all of us, elected officials, police officials, our citizens, and talk about the positive change for how we move forward," he said. "There’s no doubt in my mind we will all get better due to this."

Vasquez said a third-party investigation is underway into the arrest near the Grossmont trolley station is underway. The department is also looking into why Furcron was shot in the face with a bean bag round. She was released from the hospital Tuesday and planned to hold a news conference with her attorney on Wednesday.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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