Crime & Justice

A tough night in South LA for District Attorney Jackie Lacey

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Jackie Lacey's campaign website

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The event had not yet begun and Deacon Jones had taken control of the microphone.

“This meeting should be shut down,” shouted Alexander, an advocate for homeless people on Skid Row and vocal on police issues.

He called Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey “a lady who supports killer cops,” and wondered why groups ranging from the ACLU to the Youth Justice Coalition to the Pasadena chapter of Black Lives Matter had invited her to speak at a forum in South LA.

“My God, have we lost our minds?” he shouted.

Lacey, security in tow, waited at a nearby doorway to enter the room, full of more than 200 people.

The district attorney, re-elected to a four-year term in June in a race in which she was unopposed, wasn’t going to get the evening she expected.

The organizers of Monday night’s event never really gained control of the microphone. They had hoped for a dialogue with Lacey on issues ranging from police shootings to jail diversion programs to helping the mentally ill caught up in the criminal justice system.

What they and Lacey got was the raw anger of people who’ve lost fathers, sons, brothers and friends to police shootings.

People like Lisa Simpson, whose son, Richard Risher, 18, was fatally shot by an LAPD officer in Watts over the summer. He allegedly shot at officers, wounding one. But Simpson doesn’t believe the police's version of events, and she said Lacey needs to prosecute the officer.

“I’m going to ask you again," Simpson shouted. "How long? How long are you going to keep standing there and let them kill us?” Simpson addressed Lacey, who is black, as “sister," and said the district attorney has a special responsibility to the African American community to address police shootings of black men.

As the district attorney, Lacey reviews every police shooting in Los Angeles County to determine if an officer acted criminally.

She has not prosecuted an officer involved in a shooting since taking office four years ago.

In fact, no Los Angeles County district attorney has brought charges against an officer in 16 years.

In the past, Lacey has said U.S. Supreme Court rulings have given officers wide latitude to use deadly force.

“We understand the public's anger over what they perceive to be unjustified shootings and killings,” she told KPCC last year as part of the station's Officer Involved series.  “But we are looking very, very carefully at these cases.

“We're pretty confident, if you look at the reasons that we have and the law, that you will find that we made the right call in every case," she said.

Many in the crowd wanted to hear Lacey speak, asking others to stop shouting her down.

“We need to be civil,” said one woman.

Lacey tried to speak.

“I am here tonight because I think the district attorney’s role is misunderstood,” Lacey began.

Someone yelled expletives at her and soon the yelling drowned her out.

Jasmine Abdullah, the founder of Black Lives Matter in Pasadena, one of the sponsors of the event, joined in loud chanting that prevented Lacey from saying much.

“If you could just give me a chance,” Lacey said.

Unable to say much, Lacey finally left.

The forum, dubbed a community town hall with the hashtag “ASKLACEY”, was over.

— KPCC's Frank Stoltze was present at the forum as a moderator for the event