Crime & Justice

Officer-involved shooting inquiry unresolved as DA Lacey sworn in

District Attorney Jackie Lacey briefs the media on the new Conviction Review Unit while Assistant Head Deputy Kenneth Lynch looks on. Lacey was sworn in to a second term Monday.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey briefs the media on the new Conviction Review Unit while Assistant Head Deputy Kenneth Lynch looks on. Lacey was sworn in to a second term Monday.
Courtesy of L.A. County District Attorney's Office

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Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey was sworn in for her second four-year term Monday, promising to do more to fight child abuse and opioid addiction. Meanwhile, activists have criticized her for failing to resolve another piece of unfinished business from her first term: the investigation into whether to file criminal charges against an LAPD officer who fatally shot an unarmed homeless man in Venice 19 months ago.

LAPD Officer Clifford Proctor, Jr., shot and killed Brendon Glenn, 29, in Venice on May 5, 2015. Lacey's investigation into the shooting is turning out to be one of the longest by her office – even though police Chief Charlie Beck denounced the killing, which was caught on video, and recommended criminal charges one year ago.

Lacey told KPCC it’s a complicated case.

"There are behind the scenes things that are going on that are making this take longer than certainly you would expect," she said. "I am not at liberty to say more."

The DA added she would rather "get it right" than rush to a decision. Lacey said she is not in negotiations for a plea deal with Proctor’s attorneys.

The delay has frustrated activists.

"It seems like this would be the case that she would file charges on, and quit playing games and quit delaying," said Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter.

One legal expert said the public should be patient.

"It’s a frustratingly long time for the public, but these cases are really tough," said Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson. She noted prosecutors across the country have filed charges against officers in what appeared to be slam dunk cases, and the officers were still found not guilty.

"In the end, the DA has to walk into the courtroom and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. "This is the toughest type of case for a prosecutor to win."

Juries typically favor police officers, Levenson said, noting the decision in the first LAPD Rodney King beating case that found the officers not guilty - and sparked four days of riots.

The city of Los Angeles agreed last month to a $4 million settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by the family of Brendon Glenn, according to court records.

Proctor killed Glenn after responding with his partner to a 911 call about a man arguing with a bouncer from the Townhouse bar and hassling passersby. The officers were trying to detain Glenn when the shooting occurred.

Los Angeles City Attorney's Office spokesman Frank Mateljan said by email that the city would not be commenting on the settlement.

The settlement is conditional on approval by the Los Angeles City Council; court records indicate that approval could come later this month.

"While no amount of money would have compensated [Glenn's family] for the loss of this son and father ... it was important to bring closure so they didn't have to go through what would have been a contentious and painful trial," said V. James DeSimone, the attorney who represented Glenn's mother Sheryn Camprone in a federal and a state lawsuit filed in February.

The Glenn case is just one officer-involved shooting that has angered activists, who argue that the DA should have filed charges against a number of officers during her first four years in office.

Those activists – mostly with Black Lives Matter – shouted Lacey down during an October community forum in South L.A. Unable to speak, she left the event early.

The DA's office says it strives to file charges or close an officer-involved shooting case within 60 to 90 days after police agencies provide the outcome of an investigation "except in unusual circumstances or where additional investigation is required," according to the DA's protocols

But according to the 2015 version of the DA's investigative flowchart for officer-involved shootings, the average investigation can take between six and eight months.

In the Glenn case, the LAPD sent the results of its investigation to the DA on Dec. 29, 2015, according to district attorney spokesman Greg Risling.

Justice Audrey B. Collins of the Second District Court of Appeal administered the oath of office to Lacey Monday at a downtown L.A. ceremony in front of more than 200 prosecutors, police chiefs and judges.

"We must do everything in our power to protect our children,” Lacey said during her address. “It is time we reassess the laws and procedures that are designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect - but sometimes fail them."

Her comments came in the wake of the case of Yonatan Daniel Aguilar, an 11-year-old boy who weighed just 34 pounds when police found him dead in a closet inside an Echo Park home in August. Social service workers had visited the family years earlier amid concerns about child abuse. The mother has been charged with murder.

"We also will use our expertise in prosecuting major narcotics dealers to fearlessly go after those who illegally supply opiates," Lacey said. Opiate use is rising dramatically, according to experts.

Lacey touted among her accomplishments during her first term the creation of a Conviction Review Unit. She said her office has received more than 900 requests to review convictions.