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L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey’s husband charged with assault in gun-waving incident

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey in 2015.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The husband of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey has been charged with multiple counts of assault in connection with a March incident recorded on video in which he waved a gun at protesters outside the couple’s Granada Hills home, according to court filings made public Tuesday.

The California attorney general’s office filed three counts of misdemeanor assault with a firearm against David Lacey on Monday, records show. Lacey had been under investigation for several months after video surfaced of him brandishing a handgun on his doorstep on March 2.

An arraignment is scheduled for Aug.13, the attorney general’s office said. David Lacey is not currently in police custody, a representative for the district attorney’s reelection campaign said.

The case was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department but will be prosecuted by the California Department of Justice to avoid any conflict of interest. David Lacey previously worked as an investigative auditor in the district attorney’s office.

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The chaotic scene, much of which was captured in cellphone video, unfolded when protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter L.A. and other local organizations descended on the Laceys’ Granada Hills home for a predawn protest. The group had banged on drums and gathered in the street before three of them approached Lacey’s home and knocked on the door.

Footage shows David Lacey open the door and point a handgun in the direction of the protesters.

“I will shoot you. Get off of my porch,” he said in the video.

Melina Abdullah, one of the city’s most visible Black Lives Matter activists and among the district attorney’s loudest critics, was among those David Lacey allegedly aimed the weapon at.

At a news conference after the incident, Jackie Lacey apologized and said her husband was reacting in fear, as she had received death threats during a contentious reelection campaign. Lacey will face former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón in the November general election.

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In a statement Tuesday, Lacey again cited the vitriolic campaign as a reason for her husband to be worried about their safety.

“The events that took place earlier this year have caused my family immense pain. My husband acted in fear for my safety after we were subjected to months of harassment that included a death threat no less than a week earlier,” she said. “Protesters arrived at my house shortly after 5 a.m. while I was upstairs. My husband felt that we were in danger and acted out of genuine concern for our well-being.”

In March, The Times asked the district attorney’s office to provide additional information about threats faced by the Laceys. At the time, a spokeswoman for the office said the family had received “numerous documented threats … including a death threat” in recent weeks. A protester also rushed toward the stage shouting at Lacey during a January debate.

Only one of the threats to Lacey was serious enough to be referred to an outside law enforcement agency, however, and Long Beach police told The Times in March that investigators did not “believe the suspect intended to carry out the reported threat.”

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David Lacey’s defense attorney, Samuel Tyre, said his “client’s human instinct is forever and always to protect his wife and his family and to keep them safe from physical harm.” He declined to comment on the facts of the case.

Carl Douglas, the civil rights attorney representing Abdullah and two other protesters named in the complaint, described the Laceys’ explanation that they were in fear for their lives as “laughable.” He said that the Laceys’ home has a doorbell equipped with a camera that would have made clear the protesters at their doorstep were unarmed.

“Rarely, in 40 years of toiling in this space, have I ever been so pleasantly surprised to see justice in action, that [Atty. Gen.] Xavier Becerra and his team would understand the wrongfulness and the maliciousness of David Lacey pulling a handgun on peaceful protesters,” he said.

Abdullah said she was thankful for Becerra’s decision, but also questioned why felony charges weren’t filed, suggesting David Lacey was given preferential treatment due to his status. Abdullah also scoffed at the idea that the Laceys felt threatened, noting that Jackie Lacey was familiar with her and the other two protesters at the door.

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“I would think that if you’re afraid you would stay in the house and call the police because you were in fear,” said Abdullah, a professor at Cal State L.A. “They weren’t in fear. They were agitated.”

Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, said felony charges would have been excessive. Several circumstances — David Lacey’s knowledge of the prior threats against his wife, the fact that he was at his home and his lack of a criminal record — were all likely mitigating factors the attorney general’s office considered, Levenson said.

“I don’t know whether he is thinking particularly clearly at 5 a.m. when people are on his doorstep and there has been increasing harassment of his wife,” she said, adding that she did not condone David Lacey’s behavior. “It’s easy to say he shouldn’t have been so afraid, he should have called the police, he made an unwise decision. But making an unwise decision doesn’t always end up with a felony or even a criminal charge.”

Protests at Lacey’s office and home demanding that she resign for failing to prosecute police killings have become more frequent in the run-up to her November contest with Gascón.

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During one event in late June, demonstrators and police officers had a brief standoff down the block from her home after some protesters began to pile mattresses and other debris on top of LAPD cruisers in the area. Officers in riot gear descended on the neighborhood, but the confrontation ultimately ended without arrests or injuries.

Lacey is in a tough reelection battle amid nationwide calls for criminal justice reform that have ramped up following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Gascón has picked up endorsements from progressive luminaries such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in recent months, while prominent politicians such as U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Ted Lieu have withdrawn their support from Lacey. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has also signaled that he is reconsidering his endorsement of the incumbent.


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