Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

Protesters Want City Council Staffer Fired Over Shooting Comment

Mark Jones rallies protesters outside San Diego City Hall on Dec. 15, 2014.
Tarryn Mento
Mark Jones rallies protesters outside San Diego City Hall on Dec. 15, 2014.

Protesters called for the immediate dismissal of San Diego Councilwoman Lorie Zapf’s staff member after the aide made insensitive remarks about them while demonstrating against police brutality at the city’s inauguration.

Zapf suspended community representative Shirley Owen on Friday after KPBS reported Owen referred to the protesters as “f——— idiots with their hands up” and said “I wanted to shoot them."

Marine veteran and college junior Mark Jones, who led the protest at the inauguration, organized a rally and march to San Diego City Hall to request Owen's termination at the city council's Monday meeting. Jones said Owen should be fired because her remarks "represent the type of institutional racism that we were protesting that day."


"It was not only just insensitive, it was completely out of line," he said.

BSJC Letter To Mayor, City Council
A letter form the Black Student Justice Coalition to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego City Council members.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

The group, known as the Black Student Justice Coalition, hosted a rally last week before the swearing in of new council members by chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.” They then entered Golden Hall in downtown San Diego and staged silent demonstrations to symbolize the killings of unarmed black men by police officers in other states. The group chanted again after the ceremony and delivered to some council members a list of demands, including appointing a special prosecutor to handle cases when an officer uses deadly force.

Zapf issued a statement Friday announcing Owen was suspended for two weeks without pay but she did not respond to protestors on Monday. Zapf said Owen’s comments do not represent the beliefs of her office. Owen also apologized.

At the Monday meeting, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole recommended the group's list of proposed changes be reviewed.

"After reviewing the requests, I do believe that further review is warranted by our mayor, our police chief, Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee as well as our Citizen’s Review Board on police practices," Cole said.


Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who chairs the public safety committee, said she looked forward to discussing some of the reforms. Councilmen David Alvarez and Chris Cate also said their offices would contact Jones about the demands.

Additionally, council members commended Jones and fellow protesters for their respectful conduct during their demonstration at the inauguration. But after Jones spoke, comments from other speakers deteriorated. At least two used profanity and were escorted out of the council chambers at the request of Council President Sherri Lightner.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.