Sheriff Villanueva ready to call National Guard in case of civil unrest over Minnesota events

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks during a press conference at South Los Angeles Sheriff's Station on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. The focus of the press conference was the recent protests that have been held following the deputy-involved shooting of Dijon Kizzee on Aug. 31 in the Westmont area. (Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva plans to call National Guard troops if there is civil unrest in Los Angeles. (Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles' top law enforcement officials say they are ready to call on the National Guard for help as they brace for protests over the upcoming verdict in the trial of a former Minnesota police officer charged with murdering George Floyd and over another recent police killing in that state.

"We are inquiring with all our law enforcement partners as to their state of readiness, which includes contingency planning with the National Guard," said Capt. John Satterfield, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "Sheriff Alex Villanueva is a strong supporter of the 1st Amendment and the people’s right to protest, but if these actions become violent or shift into lawlessness, swift and decisive action will be taken to protect life, protect property, and maintain order in a fair, firm and impartial manner."

Saying authorities are in the "planning phase," Satterfield said it would be "premature to say" how many Guard troops would be ready to deploy.

At a press conference Monday, Villanueva, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and other county officials urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully. In comments during the event, Moore said that he, too, was prepared to call on the National Guard "if that becomes necessary."

Their pleas for calm came after a police officer fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday the officer may have intended to use a Taser, not a firearm, and that he believes the shooting of the Black man was an "accidental discharge."

The death reignited tensions in the Minneapolis area, where protesters once again took to the streets to demand racial justice as they did following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last May as Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes during an arrest. CBS Los Angeles reported that a small group of demonstrators gathered in South L.A. on Monday afternoon calling for justice for Wright.

Authorities around Minneapolis and elsewhere were already on alert as Chauvin's trial on manslaughter and murder charges nears an end following nearly two weeks of testimony. Floyd's death triggered massive demonstrations around the U.S. and in other countries against police abuses and the verdict in Chauvin's trial will be seen by many as a litmus test for police accountability.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.