La Mesa police release video of officer firing beanbag at protester

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WARNING: The video below contains explicit language and shows body camera recordings of police firing a beanbag round at a suspect. Many viewers may find it disturbing.

LA MESA, Calif. — La Mesa police Wednesday released body camera video that shows an officer firing a beanbag round at a woman during a protest outside the department in May.

Police said Leslie Fucron, 59, entered the La Mesa Police Department’s east parking lot at 8:14 p.m. on May 30, according to a since-deleted livestream video on her Facebook page.

Video from the body camera worn by Detective Eric Knudson shows him firing a beanbag round from the first floor patio of the department’s communications center, about 96 feet from Furcron, police said. Video from the body camera worn by a supervisor standing to the left of Kundson shows Furcron, who was wearing a white shirt, throw an object and, five seconds later, fall to the ground.

According to a timeline of events released by the department, police reported Furcron as “down” at 8:16 p.m. She was struck in the forehead. Protesters immediately surrounded Furcron, who was carried to a vehicle in less than two minutes, police said. She was airlifted to a hospital.

Police said that at the same time Furcron threw the object, several San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies were deployed in the parking lot to disperse the crowd. Police released an image depicting the direction that object was traveling in, with an arrow drawn in the direction of the deputies. Police did not confirm what the object was.

About three hours earlier, police had declared an unlawful assembly after protesters started throwing rocks at officers and there was an act of arson in the plaza, police said. Officers gave multiple orders to protesters to disperse, but they continued throwing large rocks, frozen water bottles and pots and pans at officers, police said.

The department released videos of protesters throwing rocks at officers — incidents police said occurred between 14 minutes and two hours prior to the officer firing a beanbag round at Furcron.

The day after the incident, the police department started an investigation into the use of force, police said. Knudson, who has been with the department for 12 years, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation that will determine whether he committed any police violations. The department’s use of force coordination will also evaluate Knudson’s tactics, police said.

“The San Diego County District Attorney’s office has been briefed on the case, and will review the full investigation when it is completed to determine if Detective Knudson bears any criminal liability,” police added.

In the video on Furcron’s Facebook page, the grandmother could be seen getting out of her car and joining a sparse group of protesters. She yells insults at a line of law enforcement from a distance, and backs further away when they deploy canisters of gas or smoke.

Around 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, Furcron takes a sip from a can and appears to fling it away. Because the camera is turned on Furcron at this time, it’s unclear where the can lands, though any officers shown in the video appear to be dozens of yards away.

Furcron spent several days in a medically induced coma at a hospital intensive care unit.

Furcron’s attorney, Dante Pride, previously acknowledged the can, saying Furcron “littered” but “there’s no way she had strength or power enough to throw a can from where she was hit all the way to where the officers were.”

Moments after tossing the can, viewers can hear a “pop” in the video, and Furcron falls to the ground. Eventually, people from the crowd can be seen scooping up her things and rushing Furcron through the crowd to get medical attention. 

“They’re trying to paint a narrative here,” Pride said Wednesday in a Zoom interview. “If you look at the video where there’s rocks being thrown, it is light outside. It’s still daytime. Those rocks were not being thrown at any time near the time when they shot Ms. Furcron.

“Second, at the time they shot Ms. Furcron, no rocks were coming over the rail at those officers on the side there.”

“I still believe that officer should be fired,” Pride continued. “There was absolutely no justification to aim his weapon and fire at Ms. Furcron at the time that he did.”

Community activist Rev. Shane Harris met with La Mesa police Chief Walt Vasquez Wednesday to discuss Harris’s “moral transparency” policy proposal, which would require San Diego law enforcement agencies to release video of use-of-force incidents within 72 hours.

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