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Woman Who Picked Up Officer's Baton In Skid Row Shooting Faces Life In Prison

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A homeless woman who picked up an officer's baton during a deadly Skid Row shooting in March is now facing life in prison because of California's Three Strikes law.

Trishawn Cardessa Carey has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon after she picked up an officer's dropped nightstick and raised it up during the March 1 shooting of Charly Keunang by LAPD officers. In the video of the shooting, the 34-year old woman can be seen standing nearby as a group of LAPD officers fight with Keunang. One of the officers drops his nightstick when he joins the scuffle and Carey walks by and picks it up. The video shows Carey raising the nightstick without ever swinging it or striking anyone before being tackled and handcuffed by two officers. Deputy District Attorney Gregory Denton says that action shows that Carey attempted to attack officers with the baton.

"An attempt to strike someone is assault," Denton told the L.A. Times. "There's no mystery here. The reality is all the conduct involved in this case is on the video."

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Carey has two previous convictions for serious or violent felonies, meaning if she's convicted again she faces 25 years to life in prison under the Three Strikes law. In 2002 she was convicted of a robbery in which she punched the victim, and in 2006 she was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon after striking a shopkeeper with a ceramic figure.

Carey has no recollection of picking up the baton. "I was in the wrong place and around the wrong people," she said.

Her defense attorney, Milton Grimes, says the video doesn't show any intent of attacking anyone. "Is possession of a baton an assault? No," said Grimes. "The legal basis appears to me to be a distraction or coverup of the killing of a man by the police."

He also contends that Carey is mentally ill and needs treatment instead of more jail time. In a report he filed with the court he said she has a history of mental health issues, including "acute episodes of psychosis," and says her mother steered her into prostitution at the age of 14.

Supporters say Carey is unfortunately another victim of the systemic incarceration of black people across the country. She has already spent five months in jail for this charge. "These excessive charges are just updated Jim Crow," said Suzette Shaw, of Los Angeles Community Action Network's Downtown Women's Action Coalition.

California voters passed the Three Strikes law in 1994, which led to several non-violent offenders being locked up behind bars for life. In 2012, voters passed Prop. 36, which reduced the harshest consequences of the original law. According to Stanford University's Three Strikes Project, which represents people convicted under the law for minor offenses, the law is applied disproportionately to minority individuals—over 45% of people serving life sentences under Three Strikes is black.

A video from another angle, taken by a camera at Union Rescue Mission, shows an earlier moment before the shooting when an officer shoves Carey away from officers as they confront Keunang in his tent.