LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles prosecutors said on Thursday they would not charge a former police officer in the 2015 shooting death of an unarmed man, despite a call by the city’s police chief to do so.
The former officer, Clifford Proctor, may have believed the 29-year-old man he shot was reaching for his partner’s weapon during a struggle outside a bar, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a report outlining the decision.
“Prosecutors cannot ethically charge a person with a crime if they do not believe a jury would convict the person of that crime,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement that accompanied the 83-page report.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck called for charges to be filed against Proctor in January 2016, the first time Beck had recommended prosecuting one of his officers for an on-duty shooting death.
But prosecutors said Beck’s recommendation did not factor into their decision.
The May 5, 2015 shooting of Brendon Glenn in the beachside neighbourhood of Venice followed a series of killings of unarmed black men by police that put law enforcement agencies across the United States under scrutiny over their use of lethal force.
Glenn was black, as is Proctor, 52, who quit the police force a year ago.
Along with the report, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office released surveillance video on Thursday that showed the shooting and the tense moments leading up to it.
Proctor and another officer saw Glenn fighting with a man outside the bar where he worked as bouncer, prosecutors said.
The officers intervened, wrestling Glenn to the ground, but he pushed himself up. The video showed Proctor firing two rounds at Glenn after he wrapped his arm around the other officer’s leg.
Even if Glenn was not reaching for the other officer’s gun, the report said Proctor may have reasonably feared that he was.
Glenn’s family received a $4 million legal settlement in December 2016 from the city over his death.
“If an officer can’t be prosecuted in this case, when will the district attorney in Los Angeles prosecute the police?” attorney V. James DeSimone, who represents the Glenn family, said in a phone interview.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union for officers, said in a statement, “District Attorney Lacey followed the evidence in this case and did not succumb to political posturing or pressure.”
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Szekely