LA MESA, Calif. – Ten days after La Mesa became the local focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality in San Diego County, the city released a 12-page timeline documenting how a peaceful demonstration erupted into violence.
The timeline starts Friday, May 29, with a peaceful protest of about 200 people outside the La Mesa Police Department. On Saturday morning, the number of demonstrators had multiplied to thousands.
By 4 p.m., some protesters made their way onto Interstate 8, stopping traffic in both directions. Another group of protesters were on the plaza of the police station, throwing rocks, cans and “explosives devices,” according to police.
When demonstrators pulled down the flag and set it on fire, officers on the roof declared an unlawful assembly and began trying to disperse the crowd with less-lethal weapons, including tear gas and bean-bag projectiles, according to the police timeline.
“During that time, we had dealt with approximately two and a half hours of rioting,” Police Chief Walt Vasquez said. “Molotov cocktails had been thrown at the police station officers, and deputies were injured.”
Investigators say it was then that 59-year-old Leslie Furcron was hit in the face with a police beanbag projectile, and things got even worse. Furcron, who spent a nine days in a local hospital, was released on Tuesday.
“It was a terrible incident where she was hit by the beanbag rounds. At that time, we were approximately two and a half hours into a long, unlawful assembly,” said Vasquez.
Furcron’s attorney, Dante Pride, has called the timeline provided by officials “one-sided” and “self-serving.”
An angry mob took to the streets, spray-painting graffiti, looting stores and setting fires. Vons, Target, Walmart, Play It Again Sports and other stores were trashed and looted. Two banks and a historic building burned to the ground.
“We are all hurting,” Vasquez said. “I think the nation is hurting. I guarantee you the La Mesa Police Department and the citizens of La Mesa are hurting. It’s painful, but the fact remains, ‘How do we get better? How do we heal? How do we connect? How do we learn?’”