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Black Lives Matter sues Jackie Lacey, husband over gun incident at family home

Melina Abdullah speaks during a Black Lives Matter protest
Melina Abdullah speaks during a Black Lives Matter protest Aug. 5 demanding the prosecution of David Lacey.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

Black Lives Matter organizers have filed a civil lawsuit against Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and her husband in connection with a March incident in which David Lacey is accused of pointing a gun at several demonstrators outside the family home.

The 16-page suit, filed Monday by Black Lives Matter organizer Melina Abdullah and demonstrators Dahlia Ferlito and Justin Marks, accuses the Laceys of assault, negligence and infliction of emotional distress in connection with the clash earlier this year.

“This lawsuit concerns the outrageously brazen and recklessly negligent use of a registered firearm by Defendant David Lacey, the husband of the Los Angeles District Attorney, against innocent protesters who were lawfully visiting their home and simply wanted the political candidate to follow through on promises she had made, yet neglected,” the suit reads.

Abdullah led a group of 30 to 40 demonstrators to the Laceys’ Granada Hills home before dawn on March 2, calling on Jackie Lacey to meet with them after she had failed to deliver on a promise to sit down with organizers that she had made in late 2019. The group chanted and prayed on the sidewalk before Abdullah, Ferlito and Marks approached the Laceys’ door and rang the bell.

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Video taken at the scene shows David Lacey, a retired investigative auditor for the district attorney’s office, open the door with a handgun drawn, pointed at Abdullah’s chest.

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

David Lacey was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault in August by the California attorney general’s office, which reviewed the case because of a conflict of interest. Attorneys for the Laceys attempted to have the case thrown out in October, alleging the attorney general did not have jurisdiction, but their motion failed. Lacey is due back in court in December.

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A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge decided the prosecution of David Lacey can continue, rejecting a defense argument that the California attorney general’s office decision to oversee the case was improper.

The Laceys’ civil attorney, Jeffrey Zinder, questioned the timing of the lawsuit and alleged it was filed largely to harm the district attorney’s reelection bid. Jackie Lacey is seeking a third term in office and is facing a tough challenge from former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

“This lawsuit was filed two weeks before an election and not at any time in the last 7 months because it is being put forward for transparently political purposes,” Zinder wrote in an e-mail. “If there was merit in this lawsuit or if it was being offered sincerely, it would have been filed at some point prior to today.”

Zinder did not respond to additional questions about specific facts or allegations that he disputed in the lawsuit.

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Civil rights attorney Carl Douglas, who is representing the plaintiffs, said that while the suit was filed on its merits, he also believed it was important to bring attention to Lacey’s decision-making before the election.

“I am trying to do what I can on behalf of the people of L.A. County, and I represent three political activists. So there are dual challenges that I’m facing,” he said Tuesday.

“On the one hand, there is sincere, severe and serious personal injury. On the other hand, this is a public official and this horrific case speaks to her judgment, and I think speaks to her fitness to serve the people of Los Angeles another four years. So I, as the lawyer, made the decision to file this case now.”

The lawsuit argues that the Laceys were familiar with Abdullah and Black Lives Matter protesters and should have known they were unarmed and posed no danger. Abdullah leads weekly protests against Jackie Lacey downtown and has never been violent toward her.

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The district attorney has apologized for her husband’s actions in the past, saying he acted out of fear for her safety. She also has said that she received a number of death threats in the run-up to March’s primary in the contentious Los Angeles County district attorney’s race, which had left her family on edge. At least one threat was serious enough that it was investigated by the Long Beach Police Department.

Ferlito said the confrontation at the Lacey home in March was not a spur-of-the-moment decision nor an unnecessary escalation by protesters, as some have criticized. Lacey’s repeated refusal to prosecute police officers in controversial shootings of unarmed suspects has reached a boiling point, according to Ferlito, who said those affected by her lack of action felt compelled to bring their plight to her home.

“We wanted to have our voices heard to a political figure who has chosen to disregard her constituency,” Ferlito said. “So when we have no other methods because all other methods have failed, we had to bring attention to her doorstep.”


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