Advertisement
Share

L.A. prosecutors reject threat charges against prominent LAPD critic

Officers march outside a police building.
The LAPD’s downtown headquarters.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County and city prosecutors will not bring charges against a prominent critic of the LAPD, finding police could not corroborate a claim that he threatened a homeless person this year, according to court records made public this week.

William Gude, 47, was arrested in late September by Hollywood Division officers who said he threatened to assault a homeless man after a dispute over trash and furniture being thrown in the street. Gude — who routinely captures video of officers’ interactions with citizens and publishes them on the Twitter account @FilmThePoliceLA — alleged the arrest was in retaliation for his activism.

Police alleged that Gude threatened to punch the homeless man and burn his tent down, according to the district attorney’s office memo. Gude said he had yelled at the homeless man, who then grabbed a pole and a knife from his tent and threatened him, so he left the area, according to the memo.

Advertisement

Hours later, police responded to a call claiming the same homeless man was waving a knife, according to the memo. But when Gude arrived on scene to film officers’ actions, he was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats against the homeless man, records show.

On the day Gude was arrested, LAPD Hollywood Division Capt. Brent McGuyre acknowledged there were no independent witnesses who could corroborate the allegation that Gude made a threat. Ultimately, that led prosecutors to decide there was insufficient evidence of a crime, according to the memo.

“This case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the memo read. “There are no independent witnesses to the incident. There is nothing to corroborate the threat.”

McGuyre declined to comment Wednesday, and the LAPD did not immediately respond to questions submitted in an email.

The district attorney’s office rejected the case against Gude on Nov. 17, but Gude said he wasn’t informed of the decision until this week. Gude said he received a call from his attorney Tuesday while he was filming a news conference held by the family of a 14-year-old girl who was shot and killed by an LAPD officer responding to an assault in a North Hollywood clothing store.

Gude said that the arrest was the latest in a series of events in which officers have been allowed to mistreat him for his activism, and that he is routinely cursed out by Hollywood Division officers as they drive past him when he is filming.

“It’s very brazen. I think they’re taking the cue that they got from their chief. I think the chief hasn’t taken any disciplinary action against officers who try to intimidate or harass me and other cop watchers,” he said. “It’s been brought to his attention multiple times, and he does nothing about it.”

The LAPD referred Gude’s case to city prosecutors on Nov. 22, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office. When contacted by The Times on Wednesday, Wilcox initially said the case was still under review. A little over an hour after this report published, Wilcox said the office had “now rejected the referral due to insufficient evidence.”

Gude’s arrest sparked a public outcry and a small protest outside the Hollywood Division station the night he was released. The LAPD initially rejected multiple public records requests from Times reporters seeking video of the incident and recordings of 911 calls related to Gude’s arrest, arguing the matter was not of “public interest.” The department ultimately published the video the day before Thanksgiving.

In the body-worn camera footage, officers immediately approach Gude and arrest him based on a complaint made by the homeless man. The homeless man was already in handcuffs after the LAPD responded to a report of him threatening people with a knife. But he was released at the scene after making the complaint against Gude, according to the footage.

While the LAPD arrested Gude based solely on the homeless man’s claims, they led Gude off in handcuffs even as he repeatedly shouted that he wanted to file a complaint against the man for threatening him with a knife, according to the video. The homeless man was not arrested.

Gude, who works in finance, is known for documenting crime scenes and police work in the Hollywood neighborhood where he resides. He has frequently filed complaints against officers over what he views as abuses committed by police, often against young Black men. Gude said he had made complaints against three of the officers involved in his September arrest.

Describing his activism in a previous interview with The Times, Gude said his filming ramped up in earnest after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. In June this year, Gude’s 22-year-old son, Marcelis, was shot and killed in South L.A. in a burst of gunfire that also wounded an 8-year-old girl.

Gude said two of his phones — including one with more than 1,000 records and still images of police actions that he’s been unable to upload — remain in LAPD custody.

“It’s all about hardship and taking punitive measures to make my life hell, but that’s fine,” he said. “I think it just gives me more determination.”

Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.


Advertisement