In Rare Move, LA DA Gascón Charges Torrance Police Officer with Assault In Shooting
For only the third time in more than two decades, a law enforcement officer in L.A. County has been charged with a crime for shooting someone.
L.A. District Attorney George Gascón on Thursday charged Torrance officer David Chandler, Jr., 33, with one felony count of assault by an officer for wounding a man who was having a mental health crisis in 2018.
“Excessive force by law enforcement authorities breeds mistrust in our communities,” Gascón said in a statement. “Police officers must work within the same laws they are sworn to uphold.”
The statement adds that Chandler is expected to be arraigned "at a later date," and that the case remains under investigation by the DA's Bureau of Investigation.
The charge comes less than nine months after Gascón took office. During his campaign last year, Gascón pledged to scrutinize police shootings more closely than his predecessors. It’s one reason police unions staunchly opposed him in the election.
The charges against Chandler stem from an incident involving Jarvis Robert Lee Goode, whose grandmother called Torrance police for help after he smashed in the window of the back sliding glass door on her home.
“He has a psychiatric diagnosis and he’s not on his meds,” his grandmother is heard telling a 911 operator in a “Critical Incident Briefing” video the Torrance Police Department issued a year after the shooting. “He’s on meth and he’s out of control and he’s threatened me,” she says.
Goode’s grandmother told police that he had claimed to be Jesus and told his aunt he might commit “suicide by cop,” Torrance police spokesman Sgt. Ronald Harris says in the video, which includes body cam footage of the two officers who opened fire.
Police were aware Goode suffered from mental health illnesses and had a history of fighting with officers from previous encounters with him, according to Harris, who adds that the grandmother, who has not been named, had obtained a restraining order against Goode in May of 2018, about three months prior to the incident.
Body camera video shows the grandmother walking out the front door with Goode following behind her. One officer is heard ordering him to drop his hands. Another shouts that Goode has a knife.
Goode is seen raising his arms, then turning away from his grandmother as the officers open fire. They started shooting “because they feared he was going to stab his grandmother,” Harris says. One officer continues to fire as Goode runs to the side of the house and up a driveway towards the rear of the home.
The DA's statement said as Goode walked away from the officers, Chandler fired multiple rounds while his partner fired once, noting that Chandler is "accused of using excessive force by continuing to fire as the man walked away."
Goode was grazed by a bullet on his left arm.
The charges come on the heels of allegations last week that two former Torrance police officers spray painted a swastika on an impounded car last year. Gascón filed felony vandalism and conspiracy charges against the two. In addition, 13 other Torrance officers are under investigation for allegedly exchanging racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic messages.
In addition, Gascón has appointed a special prosecutor to review the 2018 shooting of Christopher Deandre Michell by Torrance police. Former DA Jackie Lacey deemed the shooting legal. It’s one of four cases the special prosecutor is initially reviewing for possible criminal charges against the officers involved.
The DA also has appointed a panel to review hundreds of other police shootings in L.A. County that Lacey decided were legal.
When A 'Reasonable Officer' Believes It's 'Necessary' To Shoot
Lacey filed charges in one police shooting. In 2018, she charged Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Liu with voluntary manslaughter for the 2016 fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist at a gas station in Norwalk. That case is expected to go to trial later this year.
The only other criminal case in the 21st century dates back to June 2000. It involved undercover LAPD officer Ronald Orosco, who was charged with assault for shooting and wounding an unarmed motorist who was driving away after an altercation with the officer. In a 2001 plea deal, Orosco agreed to a five-year prison sentence and conviction for shooting into an occupied car in exchange for prosecutors dropping other charges.
The latest case will be the first test in L.A. County of a new California law designed to narrow the circumstances under which law enforcement officers may legally use deadly force.
The new state law, which took effect in 2019, allows police to use deadly force only when a “reasonable officer” believes it's “necessary” to save themselves or someone else from imminent serious bodily injury or death.
Previously, California used a similar federal standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court that did not include the word "necessary." Because the state law retains the reasonable officer standard, it’s unclear whether it will result in more prosecutions or convictions.
The law also says officers must use deescalation tactics, but it doesn’t require them to exhaust all such efforts before shooting someone.
Another important change under the new law: prosecutors may now consider the actions of an officer leading up to a shooting. That's significant because it means district attorneys in California can address a problem called "officer-created jeopardy."
The DA has filed a series of criminal cases against law enforcement officers in recent months, including one this week against two sheriff’s deputies for allegedly filing a false report to cover up excessive use of force and another against two sheriff’s detectives who allegedly lied that a suspect had reached for a case with a rifle inside.