A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was captured on video beating a man with a riot shield while he was pinned to the ground Friday night as a protest in West Hollywood decrying the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., resulted in six arrests.
Other sheriff's deputies appeared to fire projectiles toward protesters.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that force was used during the arrests and that an investigation was being conducted. A spokesman said that he did not have information about what type of force was used but that the department was aware of the video.
Cammy Hicks, a 36-year-old activist from Burbank who recorded the video, said the crowd was not given enough time to disperse before deputies deployed force.
“There’s no time to even react, and we’re supposed to stay calm and relaxed when we’re getting shot at and tear gassed and [hit with] rubber bullets,” she said.
The crowd at one point numbered more than 100 people as the march headed toward the Grove shopping complex, according to KTLA-TV Channel 5.
Later in the evening, authorities declared an unlawful assembly and issued an order to disperse after several acts of vandalism took place, the Sheriff’s Department said in its statement.
“After the order was given, two pickup trucks were seen driving recklessly on Sunset Boulevard with multiple subjects hanging out of the truck bed,” the statement said. “Both vehicles then blocked traffic, taking over the street on Sunset Boulevard near San Vicente Boulevard.”
Deputies approached the vehicles and detained about 10 people, six of whom were subsequently arrested on suspicion of offenses including reckless driving, unsecured passengers in a truck bed, battery on a peace officer, attempting to free a suspect from police custody, resisting or obstructing deputies in the course of their duties and failure to disperse, the Sheriff’s Department said. Their identities were not released. The department declined to provide additional information surrounding the circumstances of the arrests, citing an ongoing investigation.
Hicks was following the demonstration from her car, ready to offer rides home to protesters who were stranded or injured.
After deputies gave the order to disperse, people began separating and she pulled over on Sunset Boulevard to look out for anyone who needed help. She saw a much smaller crowd approach, led by a man in a wheelchair and a truck. Then, she said, an armored Sheriff’s Department truck showed up and began stopping people in the road and ordering them to break up.
At the same time, she said, deputies pulled the driver of the truck out of the vehicle and pinned him to the ground. She began recording on Instagram, capturing a deputy repeatedly hammering a man’s ankles with a riot shield. Her video was widely shared on social media. She said other deputies fired irritants into the crowd.
A deputy then approached Hicks’ car and she ended her recording. It was 9:46 p.m. She said she rolled the window down and began choking from the gas. She said she was told to leave and did. She turned a corner and pulled over to wait for another activist who’d been driving behind her. But the woman never came. Hicks said she later learned the woman was arrested.
“I don’t get it,” Hicks said. “We were both doing the exact same thing.”
She later added, “It never gets violent until they [sheriff's deputies] show up.”
The arrests came a day after a truck drove through a group of protesters in Hollywood, striking at least one person as it sped through the crowd.
Officers had stopped and identified the driver Thursday night but then let him go. Capt. Steve Lurie, who commands the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, said police were reviewing whether the driver — and another who drove a Prius through the same protest crowd — were “the suspect of a hit-and-run or the victim of an assault.”
The truck driver told police that protesters had attacked his car first, and officers noted damage to the vehicle, Lurie said. On Friday, police said a preliminary investigation had determined that protesters had surrounded the man’s truck and “began beating his vehicle with sticks and tried to open the door to his vehicle.”
The demonstrations were part of the latest wave of protests to sweep the country with renewed intensity after a Kentucky grand jury decided Wednesday not to hold the police officers who shot Taylor, a Black medical worker, during a bungled raid on her apartment legally responsible for her death.
Protesters had already been demonstrating against police killings regularly in the Los Angeles area after a string of controversial fatal shootings by sheriff's deputies, including that of Andres Guardado in Gardena on June 18 and Dijon Kizzee in Westmont on Aug. 31.
The Sheriff’s Department has also been criticized for its handling of the demonstrations themselves, most recently after arresting a public radio reporter who was covering a small protest outside a hospital where two deputies were recovering from gunshot wounds.
The L.A. County district attorney's office said this week that it will not file criminal charges against Josie Huang, 39, of KPCC-FM. Prosecutors noted in court documents that Huang did not appear to have been trying to interfere with deputies but was merely recording an arrest they were making in a public area. After deputies ordered her to back up, they grabbed her and took her to the ground, "giving her little if any time to comply,” prosecutors wrote.
The Sheriff's Department had said that Huang did not identify herself as a member of the media and lacked “proper” press credentials when she was arrested outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood on Sept. 12. But that account was later contradicted by videos Huang shared on Twitter, in which she can clearly be heard identifying herself as a reporter and screaming for help. Her recordings also captured deputies kicking and stomping on her phone.
County Inspector General Max Huntsman and the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau are each investigating the arrest.
Separately, plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit are seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction to limit the Sheriff's Department's use of force at protests, claiming it has employed rubber bullets, tear gas and other chemical agents indiscriminately against peaceful protesters, journalists and legal observers in violation of the Constitution.
In court documents, a group of 13 plaintiffs — including protesters injured at marches against police violence over the summer — claim that the department has been improperly using force to disperse crowds without giving those present sufficient warning and time to obey orders.
The Sheriff’s Department has previously said that deputies used less-lethal force in response to protesters who threw rocks and bottles at officials, and not to cause them to disperse.
Times staff writers Leila Miller, Kevin Rector and James Queally contributed to this report.