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L.A. council candidate takes heat for Facebook handgun post

David Cunningham Facebook post
L.A. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer contacted the authorities about this Facebook post by David Cunningham, a Los Angeles City Council candidate. The post was later deleted.
(Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles City Council candidate posted an image of a handgun on his Facebook page last week while describing a dispute involving local Democratic Party activists, prompting one state lawmaker to call for him to drop out of the race.

David Cunningham, who is running against Councilman Curren Price in next year’s election, uploaded the gun image as part of a post in which he accused Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) of having members of a slate of Democratic Party delegate candidates threaten him and his family.

“Guess what sir? We can and will defend ourselves from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Cunningham wrote in his post.

Jones-Sawyer said he did not make, or arrange for, any threats and has contacted the Legislature’s police force about the post. He said the handgun image, now deleted, was a threatening message that could spur others to commit violence — and shows that Cunningham is unfit for public office.

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“This is not an appropriate way an elected official or a human being should act,” said Jones-Sawyer, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. “You should not be threatening a public official.”

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer said he contacted law enforcement about the Facebook post, which he described as a threat to his family.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The incident comes less than six months after Jones-Sawyer denounced the state’s prison guards union for posting a video describing its plan to target its political enemies, which at one point showed a bull’s-eye target taped to a photo of Jones-Sawyer, who is Black.

The union responded by promising to edit the video.

Cunningham is one of several candidates seeking to unseat Price in an area stretching from the Los Angeles Convention Center to just north of Watts. He also was recently elected as a Democratic Party delegate for the 59th Assembly District, an area represented by Jones-Sawyer, as part of a slate called the Fighting 59th.

Cunningham said he wrote the post after receiving written threats of physical violence from people who belong to Jones-Sawyer’s unsuccessful delegate slate, known as the Rising 59th. The council candidate said he now realizes he made a mistake and removed the post, but insists he was trying to defend his family.

“This is just the struggle of running as a young Black gay man in Los Angeles, and being seen as a threat to their political power,” he said.

Images in the political ad, since removed, show a bull’s-eye obscuring the face of South L.A. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, drawing criticism that it amounted to a threat.

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Cunningham, who also goes by the name Devund Tinson, has had several brushes with the law. In 2018, he pleaded no contest to trespassing and misdemeanor battery. About six months ago, he was charged with abusing a dog and falsifying a document — a case with a mix of felony and misdemeanor counts, according to the district attorney’s office.

The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty, saying the case stems from his recent effort to register his dog as a service animal. In an interview, Cunningham said he has submitted documentation to show he did not use someone else’s identity and was in fact a victim of fraud.

Cunningham also said he had been unaware that there are laws prohibiting “tethering” — tying an animal to a fence or other object for a lengthy period of time.

District attorney’s spokesman Ricardo Santiago said none of the charges in the case involve tethering.

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Cunningham said his 2018 trespassing conviction stems from a period when he was homeless and illegally entered an abandoned home in search of shelter. The battery arrest occurred when he was living on the streets of West Hollywood and sought to defend himself from an attacker, he said.

“These cases happen all the time in the city of Los Angeles,” he said. “People who are homeless are attacked.”

Whether Cunningham will be permitted to remain a Democratic Party delegate is unclear. Mark Gonzalez, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, said threats are considered violations of the party’s statewide code of conduct and are not tolerated.

“I strongly urge leadership to take necessary steps to protect all members,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

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Asked about the Facebook post, California Democratic Party spokeswoman Shery Yang said her party has a “robust” process for handling “matters of this nature.”

“That process is being followed and handled appropriately,” she said in an email.


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