On-duty law enforcement officers in Southern California have shot more than 2,000 people since 2004, but only a single officer in all that time has faced criminal charges. Guess what: that officer was found not guilty.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed those startling numbers this week, and while the vast majority of those 2,000 shootings were justified incidents with armed suspects, the story paints a picture of one U.S. region that stands out among the nation as a place where officers appear immune to prosecution.
Let's put this in perspective. The Times found that lawsuits stemming from officer-involved shootings in the five counties that make up SoCal—Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial—have led to payouts to victims and families of more than $150 million over that same 11-year period. That's $150 million worth of police-shootings deemed f*ckups in civil courts, but only one criminal case against an officer, and even that didn't stick. It doesn't seem to add up.
The one officer that was charged with a crime, Deputy Ivory Webb, was captured on video shooting a suspect that he was holding at gunpoint while the suspect pleaded with him. The video seems to clearly show Webb telling Elio Carrion to "get up," Carrion responding, "I'm getting up," and then Webb shooting the man multiple times. You can watch the graphic video here.
A criminal jury found that Webb was justified in shooting Carrion, though a later civil suit led to Carrion being awarded a $1.5 million settlement. The Times story details several other similar cases in recent years.
SoCal, of course, is no stranger to controversial verdicts involving police brutality. The acquittal of the the white LAPD officers seen beating Rodney King on video, and the ensuing burning of the city, brought police brutality and racial justice to the forefront decades before cases like the shooting of Mike Brown and the death of Freddie Gray did the same for a new millennium.
Even more recently, Los Angeles County prosecutors decided the officers who fired more than 100 shots at two innocent women who were delivering newspapers wouldn't face criminal charges.