LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nearly three years after a police shooting that sparked protests in Los Angeles, prosecutors said Thursday they will not file charges against the officer who killed an unarmed homeless man, despite a recommendation for charges from the police chief.
Prosecutors declined to bring charges because they couldn't prove Officer Clifford Proctor acted unlawfully when he shot Brendon Glenn in the back in 2015 in Venice, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
"We have concluded that there's insufficient evidence to overcome a claim at trial by Officer Proctor that he did that in defense of his partner or himself," Lacey said.
Glenn, 29, of Troy, New York, was on his stomach and trying to push himself up when Proctor shot him, according to police.
Glenn wasn't trying to take a gun from Proctor or his partner when he was shot, and Proctor's partner told investigators that he didn't know why the officer opened fire, police have said.
Police Chief Charlie Beck had recommended that prosecutors charge Proctor. In addition, a civilian oversight panel found the officer violated department policy when he shot Glenn twice in the back.
An attorney for Glenn's family called Lacey's decision "spineless" and said it highlighted a conflict of interest when prosecutors are tasked with deciding whether to charge police officers.
"Officer Proctor did not act to deescalate the situation," lawyer V. James DeSimone said in a statement. "This tragic death could have been avoided with common sense policing."
The shooting, which came amid tensions nationwide over police killings of unarmed black men, drew angry protests in the city. Both Glenn and Proctor are black.
Glenn's name has become a rallying cry against police shootings in Los Angeles, and activists have held a series of protests outside Lacey's office. The activists say the office hasn't prosecuted an on-duty officer for a fatal shooting in more than a decade.
Beck's unprecedented recommendation to charge the officer was not helpful to the case, Lacey said. Such letters raise expectations when the evidence may not be there to support the conclusion, she said.
Glenn was killed during a struggle with officers outside a bar where he had fought with a bouncer. A police report said Proctor told investigators that he saw Glenn's hand on his partner's holster and thought he was trying to grab the other officer's gun.
Surveillance video from a nearby bar did not show Glenn reaching for the weapon, and Proctor's partner, Jonathan Kawahara, said he didn't see Glenn's hand go near his gun, a district attorney's report said.
Prosecutors said even if Glenn wasn't reaching for Kawahara's gun, the struggle could've caused Proctor to fear that he was.
The district attorney did not decide the shooting was justified and instead said Porter "could have a rather credible and successful claim that in this struggle to lawfully arrest this man that he feared that there was a threat of death or great bodily injury."
Proctor's attorney, Bill Seki, said he believed the district attorney made the right decision and Proctor was in imminent danger when he shot Glenn.
"That's been our position all along that his actions weren't criminal," Seki said.
Proctor resigned from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017. The city paid $4 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit that was brought by Glenn's relatives.
The report included officer body-camera footage , which is rarely released by Los Angeles authorities, and surveillance videos. Investigators said they also took statements from 10 civilian witnesses, used DNA analysis and brought in a use-of-force expert to consult on the case.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file police officers, said Lacey "followed the evidence in this case and did not succumb to political posturing or pressure."
While Proctor was on leave after the shooting, internal affairs investigators referred a case to the district attorney's office against him because they found he "was not at home when he was supposed to be," but prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges.
In 2016, Proctor was charged in a separate case with domestic battery and is also accused of violating a court order and dissuading a witness from testifying, Orange County prosecutors said. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
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