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DA declines to charge former LAPD officer in fatal shooting of homeless man on Venice boardwalk

Kate Mather and Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Prosecutors declined Thursday to criminally charge a former Los Angeles police officer in the fatal shooting of a man near the Venice boardwalk -- a decision that bucks an unprecedented call by Chief Charlie Beck to prosecute one of his own for a deadly, on-duty shooting.

The long-awaited decision by District Attorney Jackie Lacey's office comes almost three years after Officer Clifford Proctor -- who resigned from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017 -- shot and killed Brendon Glenn, a New York native who was staying near the famed boardwalk.

"After an independent and thorough review of all the evidence in this case, we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Proctor did not act within the law," Lacey said in a statement Thursday.

Based on the evidence, the statement continued, Proctor "may have reasonably believed that Glenn was reaching for his partner's weapon."

Neither Lacey nor other prosecutors considered Beck's comments in assessing whether Proctor's actions were criminal, the statement said.

Glenn's name became a local rallying cry in the ongoing criticism over how LAPD officers use force, particularly against African-Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.

Two years ago, Beck publicly said he believed Proctor should be criminally charged, marking the first time as chief he had suggested an officer be prosecuted in a fatal on-duty shooting. The silence from Lacey's office that followed was often referenced by activists and others who contend that prosecutors do little to hold officers accountable after questionable shootings.

The last time the Los Angeles County district attorney's office prosecuted a law enforcement officer in an on-duty shooting was in 2000.

Glenn was fatally shot May 5, 2015, as police tried to detain the 29-year-old after he fought with a bouncer outside a Windward Avenue bar. Proctor and his partner intervened, and a struggle began.

Proctor told investigators that he opened fire because he saw Glenn's hand on his partner's holster and thought Glenn was trying to grab the officer's gun, according to an LAPD report made public in 2016.

But video from a nearby bar and statements from Proctor's partner disputed that account, according to the report. Glenn's hand was never seen "on or near any portion" of the holster, the report said, and his partner never made "any statements or actions" suggesting Glenn was trying to take the gun.

The district attorney's office released that video Thursday as part of an 83-page memo outlining the decision by prosecutors.

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"I think the DA's office made a very difficult decision, but it was the right decision," said Proctor's attorney, Bill Seki. "Based upon the law, this was a justified shooting."

Proctor had an "honest belief" that Glenn was reaching for his partner's gun, Seki said.

"Based upon the aggressiveness of the individual and the struggle they were having at that moment, his state of mind and everything he was perceiving, he believed that he and his partner were in danger," Seki said.

The shooting rattled Venice, particularly the young homeless people whom Glenn camped with on the beach. After the shooting, as investigators combed the scene, Glenn's friends held signs with his name outside the yellow police tape. They later packed a town hall meeting, criticizing police.

Glenn moved to California looking for work a few months before his death, his mother and sister previously told the Los Angeles Times. They described him as an adventurer who wasn't afraid of a challenge, someone who loved cracking jokes and helping others.

The Police Commission, the civilian oversight panel that reviews all shootings by LAPD officers, unanimously agreed in 2016 that Proctor violated department policy when he shot Glenn. Later that year, the city agreed to pay Glenn's mother and young son $4 million to settle lawsuits they filed after his death.

Proctor, meanwhile, is awaiting trial on domestic violence and other charges in Orange County. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

(Los Angeles Times staff writer Marisa Gerber contributed to this report.)

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