Anniversary of fatal police shooting in Venice prompts calls for federal civil rights charges
By Jason McGahan
Saturday, May 5, marked three years since a Los Angeles police officer fatally shot unarmed homeless man Brendon Glenn twice in the back outside a bar near the Venice Boardwalk. Venice residents and community activists observed the solemn occasion with an afternoon rally and celebration of Glenn’s life.
Clifford Proctor, who resigned from the LAPD last year, shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while responding to a scuffle between Glenn and a bouncer on Windward Avenue. Captured on video by a nearby security camera, the shooting posed a kind of litmus test for the Los Angeles justice system during a period of intense public scrutiny of police officers who use deadly force.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck took the unprecedented step of publicly recommending that prosecutors charge Proctor with manslaughter, the L.A. Police Commission ruled the shooting was unjustified, and L.A. City Hall paid out $4 million to settle a wrongful death claim with Glenn’s family.
L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, however, announced in March that she would not bring charges against Proctor, even as he awaited trial for domestic violence charges in Orange County. Now the attorney for Glenn’s family is urging federal prosecutors to pursue a civil rights case, the last chance for criminal prosecution of Glenn’s killing.
Timothy Truman organized Saturday’s memorial potluck along the sidewalk at 52 Windward Ave., the spot where Glenn was killed in 2015. Truman, 26, said he knew Glenn from hanging out at the Venice Skate Park while both young men were homeless on the boardwalk. He recalled hearing the gunshots that killed Glenn while at a store across the street.
“I can’t even describe it in words,” Truman said of the fatal shooting. “It really hurt a lot. It really traumatized me.”
Truman says that after the shooting he found housing, got married, started a family and founded a fledgling ministry, the Angel Alexandria Ministry of Los Angeles. He and wife Zoey Acqistapace served soda and snacks on folding tables they set up across two parking spaces commandeered for the occasion.
Well-wishes dedicated to Glenn like “Dogtown misses you” were scrawled in colored chalk on the street alongside more political slogans like “Prosecute Clifford Proctor.”
Acqistapace, who baked brownies and
a cake for the memorial, said that though she never met Glenn, she feels as though she knows him through her husband. “[Glenn] was someone he really cared about,” she said.
About a dozen activists gathered nearby for a solemn memorial rally at the Windward entrance to the Venice Boardwalk. As beachgoers streamed past the souvenir booths on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, the protesters stood in a semicircle facing a blanket covered with protest signs, prayer candles and a bowl used to burn incense. A message on one of the posters read: “Brendon Glenn is Not Forgotten.”
Mike Bravo, an activist with the Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character and former Venice Neighborhood Council member, said the purpose of the rally was, in part, to remind the public what happened to Glenn.
“It was a blatant crime, a blatant unrighteous act by a police officer,” Bravo said. “If we’re not talking about these things they fall off the radar of political discussion.”
In an 83-page report on the shooting, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said police arrived to the scene after a bartender called 911 to report Glenn was being “loud and obnoxious” to customers and refusing to leave.
Mairym Llorens, an activist with the L.A. Tenants Union, urged newer and more affluent arrivals to the swiftly gentrifying beachside community not to call the police on homeless people, except as a last resort.
“We make a call to new people arriving not to align themselves with the violence being perpetrated against poor, working class people,” Llorens said.
Glenn’s family lives in New York and was unable to attend the rally, said attorney V. James DeSimone, who spoke at the rally on the family’s behalf.
DeSimone said he met recently with officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and asked them to consider filing federal charges against Proctor.
“I’m trying to work within back channels within the U.S. Attorney’s office to get traction and generate a prosecution for U.S. civil rights violations,” DeSimone told The Argonaut.
He added: “We know the district attorney’s office has a conflict. The conflict is they rely on LAPD officers to prosecute cases. So they’re very reluctant to prosecute officers. We need an independent prosecutor statewide to prosecute police when there is wrongdoing. Without an independent prosecutor, you’re just going to have a continuation of this type of injustice.”
According to surveillance camera footage, as Proctor and officer Jonathan Kawahara attempted to subdue and arrest Glenn, Glenn started to stand up, wrapping his right arm around Kawahara’s leg. County prosecutors argued that it was thus reasonable for Proctor to have successfully argued in court that he believed Glenn was reaching for Kawahara’s gun with his left hand, which is not visible in the video.
DeSimone, who negotiated the city’s $4-million December payout to Glenn’s mother and young son, said Lacey bent over backwards to give Proctor the benefit of the doubt in the investigation, abusing her prosecutorial discretion. He said he’s counting on a measure of independence from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles since, as he said of the current president, “We know the directive is not going to come from Washington.”
“If you’re not going to prosecute in this instance — when an unarmed man was shot in the back on video — when are you going to prosecute? It basically means officers can shoot and kill without any repercussions,” he said.