On December 9, 2018, two Torrance, California, police officers shot and killed 23-year-old Black man Christopher Deandre Mitchell while he was sitting in a car. The cops claimed they saw his hands move toward what turned out to be an air rifle that was wedged between his legs. The cops also said Mitchel failed to comply with their commands. And since “they didn’t comply” and “they were reaching for something” tend to be get-out-of-jail-free phrases for cops who have shot someone (especially a Black person) who didn’t actually pose any lethal threat to them, the district attorney at the time opted not to bring charges against them. That changed last month when the current district attorney in Torrance officially indicted the officers, who pleaded not guilty when arraigned on Monday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez have been charged with one count each of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison.
Here’s how the shooting unfolded, according to the Times:
In December 2018, Concannon and Chavez were responding to reports of a man driving a stolen vehicle and came upon Mitchell in a Ralph’s parking lot in Torrance, according to an earlier district attorney’s office memo clearing the officers of wrongdoing.
The officers parked behind Mitchell, exited their vehicle and yelled, “Police!” Mitchell initially placed his hands on the steering wheel, according to the memo.
The officers repeatedly ordered Mitchell to get out of the car, but he did not comply, according to the report. When they approached him, the officers noticed Mitchell’s hands move toward his lap, where Concannon saw what he believed to be a firearm. Both officers then shot Mitchell at close range, killing him.
The officers described the weapon, later determined to be a “break barrel air rifle,” as “pinched” between Mitchell’s legs, though neither alleged he grabbed it or pointed it at them before they shot him.
“Based on Mitchell’s failure to follow the officers’ directions, his continued efforts to conceal the object in his lap, the physical appearance of the object, and the movement of his hands toward the object, it was reasonable for the officers to believe that the object was a firearm and to respond with deadly force,” prosecutors wrote in 2019, when former Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute Concannon and Chavez.
It’s unclear what has changed now that the current D.A., George Gascón, who made the decision to reopen the case in 2020, has reversed Lacey’s decision not to charge the officers.
“There must be new evidence, but Mr. Gascón, through the special prosecutor, has repeatedly refused to provide it to us,” Concannon’s attorney, Lisa Houlé, said in a statement. “Unless he can provide something new, this would appear to be a politically motivated and financially incentivized rank abuse of prosecutorial power.”
Still, Christopher Deandre Mitchell’s family and other supporters have maintained that Mitchell did follow commands and was never a threat to the officers, who they say never gave him a chance to surrender. They claim he was asleep in the car when the cops approached him. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Sheila Bates said Monday that the officers unnecessarily escalated the situation despite Mitchell not threatening them in any way, and they opened fire within seconds of approaching him.
“It’s been a long time coming, ” Mitchell’s mother, Sherilyn Haines said Monday. “It’s been a rough journey. My heart, my soul, is deeply hurting. So bad. I miss my son…so much. My son’s life was stolen by Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez. He didn’t get a chance to live his best life.”
It’s also worth mentioning that both Concannon and Chavez have been linked to a racist texting scandal in which at least 15 officers with the Torrance Police Department sent approximately 390 racist, sexist and homophobic messages from 2018 to 2020. This is something that appears to be somewhat common among cops in California and elsewhere.
More from the Times:
The messages included jokes about setting up Black men to be killed, with one officer suggesting he wanted to shoot and hang several Black suspects, and a picture of a teddy bear being lynched inside the police department’s headquarters, according to documents previously reviewed by The Times.
While The Times never found evidence that Concannon or Chavez sent any of the messages, they were both under investigation as part of the scandal, according to documents previously reviewed by the newspaper and sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Messages sent by unidentified officers used the N-word to describe Mitchell’s loved ones and celebrated other officers’ decision to use force against protesters who supported Mitchell’s family during a demonstration in front of the Torrance City Council. Several of the officers who used racist language in the messages were also later accused of using excessive force against protesters in civil lawsuits.
So, two cops—who were under investigation behind another racist police group chat in which bigoted cops were advocating for and celebrating police brutality—have now been charged for a fatal act of alleged police brutality against a Black man.
That “only a few bad apples” narrative is looking more and more erroneous by the day.
2 California Cops Plead Not Guilty To Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting Of Christopher Deandre Mitchell was originally published on newsone.com
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