Torrance police officers indicted in 2018 killing of Christopher Deandre Mitchell

Three parked Torrance police cruisers
Two Torrance police officers linked to a racist text messaging scandal have been indicted in the 2018 shooting death of a Black man who was holding an air rifle, according to defense attorneys for one of the officers.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Two Torrance police officers linked to a racist text messaging scandal have been indicted in the 2018 shooting death of a Black man who was holding an air rifle, according to defense attorneys for one of the officers.

Defense attorney Tom Yu confirmed Thursday that Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez were indicted in the killing of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, a 23-year-old suspected car thief.

Yu said he did not know what charges the officers would face, but a court appearance is expected early next week.


Attorneys for Concannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment. An attorney representing Mitchell’s family said he had not been informed of the indictment.

Former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey cleared both officers of wrongdoing in 2018, but the case was one of four her successor, George Gascón, promised to reopen after he was elected in 2020.

Special prosecutor Lawrence Middleton, whom Gascón hired to review those cases independent of the district attorney’s office, began presenting evidence to a grand jury last month.

A grand jury will consider charges this week against two former Torrance police officers in the 2018 killing of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell.

March 20, 2023

In December 2018, Concannon and Chavez pulled up to Mitchell, who was suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, in a Ralph’s parking lot in Torrance, according to an earlier district attorney’s office memo clearing the officers of wrongdoing.

The officers parked behind Mitchell, exited their vehicle and yelled, “Police!” Mitchell initially placed his hands on the steering wheel, according to the memo.

The officers repeatedly ordered Mitchell to get out of the car, but he did not comply, according to the report. When they approached him, the officers noticed Mitchell’s hands move toward his lap, where Concannon saw what he believed to be a firearm. They opened fire.


The officers described the weapon, later determined to be a “break barrel air rifle,” as “pinched” between Mitchell’s legs, though neither alleged he grabbed it or pointed it at them before they shot him.

The Times has identified a dozen Torrance police officers who are under investigation for sharing racist and homophobic text messages and images.

Dec. 8, 2021

“Based on Mitchell’s failure to follow the officers’ directions, his continued efforts to conceal the object in his lap, the physical appearance of the object, and the movement of his hands toward the object, it was reasonable for the officers to believe that the object was a firearm and to respond with deadly force,” read the original district attorney’s office memo declining to charge the officers in 2019. “Accordingly, both officers’ use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances.”

When news of Middleton’s pursuit of a grand jury indictment broke last month, Yu told The Times the move to seek an indictment years after Lacey cleared his client of wrongdoing was “entirely motivated by politics and due to the campaign promises by Mr. Gascón to his constituents.”

Concannon and Chavez were among 15 officers linked to a racist text message scandal within the Torrance Police Department after a search warrant in a criminal case against two other officers turned up a trove of messages sent between 2018 and 2020 that made gruesome, violent and racist comments about Black and Latino people, members of the LGBTQ community and members of the Jewish faith.

Eight months after The Times revealed racist texts by Torrance police officers, city officials have done little to hold them accountable.

Aug. 25, 2022

The Times did not find evidence that Concannon and Chavez sent racist messages, but several sources and documents reviewed by the newspaper confirmed they were part of the text thread and under investigation as part of the scandal. Mitchell’s death was discussed in the text messages several times, with unidentified officers using the N-word to describe the dead man’s loved ones and others glorifying violence against protesters who wanted the officers charged.

Both officers’ status with the department remains unclear. Chavez and Concannon did not appear on a copy of the Torrance Police Department’s roster provided to The Times in response to a public records request filed last year. But Sgt. Ron Salary, a Torrance police spokesman, and Concannon’s attorney have said he’s still employed as an officer.


Salary declined to comment on Chavez’s job status and did not respond to a request for comment on the indictment Thursday.