The husband of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey pointed a gun at unarmed protesters during a confrontation outside the couple’s home early Monday, heightening tensions on the eve of her primary election.
Video from the scene shows her husband standing in the doorway of their Granada Hills home pointing a gun and shouting, “I will shoot you. Get off of my porch.”
The incident prompted an LAPD response, but no one was hurt or arrested. Lacey’s husband, David, is a former investigative auditor for the district attorney’s office, according to spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales.
During a news conference downtown Monday, Lacey offered an apology on her husband’s behalf but also derided protesters for what she said was repeated harassment and threats throughout her two terms in office.
“His response was in fear, and now that he realizes what happened he wanted me to say to the protesters, the person that he showed the gun to, that he was sorry, that he’s profoundly sorry, that he meant no one any harm,” Lacey said, her voice swelling with emotion.
Lacey is trying to fend off a pair of challengers — former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón and former Los Angeles County public defender Rachel Rossi — who embody a nationwide push to elect more progressive prosecutors.
The three candidates have engaged in a hotly contested campaign that included a combative January debate marked by protesters shouting down Lacey, which she later cited as a reason to turn down further public debates.
A group of about 30 protesters arrived at the Lacey household before dawn Monday, according to Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter organizer and Cal State L.A. professor who said she was one of three people at whom the gun was pointed.
The demonstration was to protest Lacey’s refusal to meet with black activists and organizers in South L.A., Abdullah said. During a contentious October meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club to discuss her handling of the Ed Buck case, the group said that Lacey promised to arrange a meeting but never delivered.
“So we decided to have the meeting in front of her house,” Abdullah said.
The group arranged chairs and prayed on the sidewalk but did not initially approach Lacey’s property until Abdullah and two others went to the front door. Then, they said, they heard a gun cock.
“I thought I was being paranoid, and I said, ‘That didn’t sound good,’” Abdullah said. “And then her husband opened the door and pointed a gun and said. ‘Get off my porch.’”
Lacey said she and her husband were awoken by noises outside and called the police, but she did not know her husband had confronted the protesters at gunpoint until after the incident occurred.
The case is under investigation by the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, and any charging decisions will be made by the California attorney general’s office, officials said.
Dozens of district attorney’s office employees filled the room when Lacey spoke downtown, interrupting the news conference with applause at least twice. Lacey said the Monday morning incident was the latest in a long line of challenges she’s faced from protesters that she claimed included “death threats.”
Davila-Morales initially declined to provide details about the threats. Late Monday, she said “numerous documented threats” had been made against Lacey in recent weeks. A death threat was also referred to an outside law enforcement agency, she said.
Abdullah and other demonstrators stage weekly protests of Lacey outside the district attorney’s office, usually chanting names of people shot and killed by county law enforcement officers. They have protested at her home at least once before, Abdullah said.
Asked why her husband reacted the way he did to a group of unarmed protesters who have confronted Lacey before, the district attorney said the event was the culmination of rising tensions she’s faced from Black Lives Matter and other groups in recent weeks.
“I don’t think you ever get used to anybody coming to your house,” she continued. “It was frightening. I know that the protests have escalated. Even at the last debate, a guy ran toward the stage. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
The incident comes as Los Angeles County voters are set to cast their ballots in what has become a fierce race for district attorney.
Gascón’s campaign declined to comment. Jasmyne Cannick, who is serving as communications director for Rossi’s campaign, posted video of the incident that immediately gained traction on Twitter, and questioned the actions of the man seen in the clip.
“What if someone got nervous at the sight of a gun in their face and dropped their cellphone or something else that made a loud noise that then triggered Mr. Lacey’s finger causing him to shoot someone for no reason?” Cannick wrote on Twitter. “There are so many reasons that his actions are just wrong.”
Experts were split on how Monday’s fracas might affect voters.
Brian VanRiper, a political consultant who has worked on a number of L.A. City Council campaigns as well as presidential races, said it’s possible some voters will see Lacey as the victim in the ordeal. But others might go to the polls with the lasting image of Lacey’s husband pointing a gun at political enemies on their minds.
“I don’t think this is a great message for Jackie Lacey to close out on,” he said.