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No Charges For Officer Who Shot Woman With Bean-Bag Round In La Mesa Protest

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.

A La Mesa police officer who fired a beanbag round that struck a woman in the head during a protest at La Mesa police headquarters will not face criminal charges, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

The DA's Office review concluded that Detective Eric Knudson used reasonable force "in light of the totality of circumstances" when he fired on 59-year-old Leslie Furcron, who attended a May 30 protest that happened less than a week after George Floyd's in-custody death in Minneapolis and a few days after the controversial arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson in La Mesa.

According to the DA's findings, outlined in a letter to the La Mesa Police Department, Knudson believed Furcron had thrown a rock at law enforcement, though the object was later revealed to be an aluminum can.

A lawsuit Furcron filed last month against Knudson and the city of La Mesa states that she threw the can at the ground and nowhere near any officers.

The DA's review alleges video footage showed the can landed about a third of the way between Furcron and a group of San Diego County sheriff's deputies who responded and formed a skirmish line in the parking lot of La Mesa police headquarters.

Though Knudson mistakenly believed Furcron threw a rock, the DA's Office's review states "his belief was not unreasonable given the totality of the circumstances the officers were dealing with over several hours of protest and rioting where they were subject to rocks being thrown at them continuously."

Furcron was struck in the forehead by the beanbag round and sustained skull fractures and other injuries that required surgery and initially left her in a medically-induced coma. According to her lawsuit, she has facial scarring and continues to suffer from a loss of vision in one eye and neurological issues.

The DA's review says Knudson, a 12-year member of the La Mesa Police Department, stated that he was aiming for the person's midsection, rather than the head area, and was firing from just under 100 feet away from Furcron.

The review concluded that Knudson fired in defense of other officers and civilian employees inside the police station amid "what started out as a peaceful protest" but "evolved into a riot."

A DA's Office statement reads, "The fact that Ms. Furcron suffered serious injuries is a tragedy, however, the law and the evidence do not support a finding that Det. Knudson committed a crime in this case."

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