LAPD identifies off-duty officer who fired gun during high-profile confrontation with teens in Anaheim
Anaheim police say the confrontation occurred because of “ongoing issues” with the juveniles walking across the officer’s property. (Feb. 23, 2017)
The Los Angeles Police Department released the name of the off-duty officer who fired his gun during what quickly became a highly charged confrontation with a group of teenagers in Anaheim as residents and activists continued to criticize his actions.
The officer, Kevin Ferguson, is back on the job but is not working in the field, Capt. Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman, said Monday.
Ferguson works out of the Hollywood Division, officials said, but they provided no details of his specific assignment. State police records show Ferguson joined the LAPD in 2013.
The Anaheim Police Department’s investigation into the altercation, as well as a separate internal inquiry by the LAPD, are continuing, spokesmen for each agency said.
A seemingly mundane dispute spun out of control on West Palais Road last week when Anaheim police say Ferguson confronted a group of teenagers walking across his property. Other teenagers pulled out their cameras, filming the officer as he held a 13-year-old boy by the collar of his sweatshirt, trying to detain him.
The situation quickly escalated from there. At one point, another teen rushed the officer, sending him tumbling over a line of bushes. The officer then reached into his jeans and drew a gun, firing a single shot.
No one was hurt by the gunfire, which Anaheim police said was aimed at the ground. But video of the encounter stirred an uproar across the country, prompting criticism of the off-duty officer’s actions and questions over why investigators arrested two teenagers — but not Ferguson — at the scene.
On Tuesday, activists who regularly attend the Los Angeles Police Commission’s weekly meetings repeatedly mentioned the confrontation, decrying Ferguson’s actions and demanding he be fired.
“We need you to find a way to get Kevin Ferguson off the streets,” said Melina Abdullah, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mani Kang told the board he was so troubled by what he saw on the video that he drove from his Orange County home to Tuesday’s meeting in downtown Los Angeles to express his concern. The officer’s behavior, he said, has become a “black eye” for the city of L.A.
“For him to use that type of force and discharge his weapon is just unbelievable,” Kang said. “If we tell children not to escalate, tell your officers not to escalate off-duty as well.”
Larry Hanna, an attorney representing Ferguson, said the officer fired the shot to defuse an escalating situation. Ferguson had been punched in the face, Hanna said, and other teens were coming at him.
“That’s why he then fires one round in a place where there’s nobody standing, in a downward direction to make people scatter. And that’s what happened,” Hanna said. “His aim was to make sure that nobody got hurt — him or anybody else.”
Officials in Anaheim and Los Angeles said they were troubled by what they saw on videos of the clash that were posted on YouTube and Facebook. As many as 300 protesters descended on the neighborhood last week, resulting in 23 arrests.
“Like many, I am deeply disturbed and frankly angered by what it shows,” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said at a news conference. “The video shows an adult wrestling with a 13-year-old kid and ultimately firing a gun. … It should never have happened.”
The encounter unfolded around 2:40 p.m. Feb. 21 along West Palais Road, Anaheim police said. Chief Raul Quezada said the officer had been involved in an “ongoing dispute” with juveniles who “continually walked across his property.”
Hanna said Ferguson’s father had asked a girl to get off their property and was met with profanities. Ferguson started to intervene, Hanna said, when another teenager told him, “You can’t do that. I’m going to shoot you.”
“That’s what he heard,” Hanna said.
As Ferguson’s father called 911, Hanna said, the off-duty officer told the boy to take his hands out of his pockets. When the teenager complied, Hanna said, Ferguson decided to detain him until Anaheim police arrived.
Two online videos showing part of the confrontation show Ferguson grabbing the boy by his sweatshirt. In one video, the boy accused the officer of cursing at a girl who walked across his yard. The officer denied making such remarks.
Ferguson stumbled down the sidewalk with the boy, then pulled him into another yard, the video shows.
“You’re the one that’s going to jail, not me,” the boy tells him. “You’re starting all this.”
“You shouldn’t have made the threat that you were going to shoot me,” Ferguson later replies.
“I didn’t say that,” the boy retorts. “I said I was going to sue you.”
Throughout the encounter, other young people approached the pair, occasionally tugging on the 13-year-old’s backpack or trying to separate the two. At one point, another teenager rushed the officer, sending him over the hedge.
As the officer tries to drag the 13-year-old over the bushes, another appears to swing at him. The officer then reaches into his jeans for the gun.
6:10 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Tuesday’s L.A. Police Commission meeting.
This story was originally published Feb. 27 at 7:25 p.m.
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times in your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.