One of four men arrested by sheriff’s deputies in Westwood denies that they assaulted pro-Israel demonstrators Sunday during a confrontation in which a federal agent fired a gunshot.
The four men -- Mohammed Said Elkhatib, Mostadafa Gamaleldin Hafez, Hassan Mustapha Kreidieh and Fadi Ali Obeidallah -- were released from custody after they were booked at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's West Hollywood station on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
Each of them posted $30,000 bail.
Speaking with reporters outside of the station, Elkhatib said they were “falsely arrested” and demanded that authorities investigate the Federal Protective Service agent who discharged his weapon Sunday at about 5:20 p.m. as they drove in the 11000 block of Wilshire Boulevard.
The agent fired the shot after the four men allegedly exited their truck and began hitting pro-Israel demonstrators with wooden sticks that had carried a Palestinian flag. Sheriff’s department officials said the men exited the truck and began the assault after an unidentified person ripped away the flag and stepped on it.
"We did not assault nobody,” Elkhatib said. “You guys have surveillance and cameras and that will tell us the truth.”
The alleged incident occurred as a crowd estimated at about 1,800 people amassed to face off over Israel's week-long offensive against the Gaza Strip, where at least 175 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by rocket fire.
A video on YouTube shows what appears to be the last moments of Sunday's Wilshire Boulevard confrontation as pro-Israel demonstrators and the men from the truck shout at each other before the men get into the truck and drive off. Sheriff’s deputies say that’s when an agent fired a single shot; it struck no one. The men were stopped shortly after by Los Angeles police and arrested.
Sheriff’s department officials are investigating the shooting.
“As an American citizen living in the United States of America, I felt like all my rights were taken away," Elkhatib said. "I was treated like a second-class citizen."
He acknowledged that he and the others arrested were pro-Palestine, but he declined to detail his political viewpoints, saying "there was no passion" and "we don't take sides."
"It's been a long day," he said. "We're just going to get some rest."
The agent who fired the shot has been put on administrative leave pending a Federal Protective Service use of force investigation. Officials with the federal agency and the Sheriff's Department declined to comment on the nature of the shooting, citing the investigation underway.
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