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DA Gascón Asks Supes To Name Rodney King Prosecutor To Investigate Police Shootings

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L.A. DA George Gascon. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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L.A. District Attorney George Gascón has asked the County Board of Supervisors to authorize the hiring of Lawrence Middleton as a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in past police shootings.

It’s an unprecedented step for an office that rarely has prosecuted police officers involved in shootings, leading to sharp criticism from Black Lives Matter and other activists.

A former federal prosecutor, Middleton was on the team that won the convictions of two LAPD officers for violating Rodney King’s constitutional rights when they beat him in 1991.

If he is hired, Middleton will first focus on four shootings that former DA Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute, said Gascón spokesman Alex Bastian:

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  • Brendan Glenn, 29, an unarmed homeless black man fatally shot by an LAPD officer in Venice in 2015. You can see the video and read the DA's declination letter here.
  • Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, 34, an unarmed man fatally shot by Gardena police officers in 2013. The D.A.'s declination letter is not posted online, but you can watch a video of the shooting here.
  • Hector Morejon, 19, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by Long Beach police in 2015. You can read the D.A.'s declination letter here.
  • Christopher Deandre Mitchell, 23, who Torrance police say was in possession of an air rifle when they fatally shot him in 2018. You can read the D.A.'s declination letter here.

Gascón has promised to review more than 600 police shootings dating back to 2012 for possible prosecution of the officers and Sheriff’s deputies involved. A Use of Force Review Board working with UC Irvine is plowing through those cases to see if any merit possible reopening, Bastian said.
For any new shootings that occur, the DA's Justice System Integrity Division will review them, as it has traditionally done in such cases, he said.

A Gascón spokesman said the DA would retain ultimate authority over prosecutions but would defer to the special prosecutor’s decisions.

In a letter to the supervisors, Gascón said he determined he needs a special prosecutor “[t]o promote public confidence in the decision-making process, and the outcome of any such investigations.”

Middleton spent nearly 30 years with the U.S. Attorney’s office that serves most of Southern California, trying more than 50 criminal cases and rising to assistant U.S. attorney leading the criminal division, according to his website. He entered private practice in July 2019.

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