SAN DIEGO - San Diego police have launched an internal investigation into allegations that an officer posted a photo on social media that appeared to make light of a makeshift memorial for a man who was fatally shot by the officer and a partner in late June.
San Diego police spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said the department fielded complaints Thursday via social media about the Instagram photo allegedly posted by Officer Jonathon Lucas. Takeuchi said police Chief David Nisleit immediately ordered an internal investigation into the matter.
Lucas, a Central Division patrol officer who has been on the force for about four years, was placed on administrative duty.
The allegations are linked to the death of 25-year-old Leonardo Ibarra, who was fatally shot by Lucas and another officer, Tevar Zaki, in downtown San Diego on June 27.
Police said the officers recognized Ibarra as a robbery suspect when he walked out of a building on Sixth Avenue near A Street carrying a plastic shopping bag. The officers told him to stop, but he dropped the bag and started to run. He then pulled out a gun from his waistband and pointed it at one of the officers, police said.
The shooting drew intense scrutiny amid local and national protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Last month, protesters who took to the streets in downtown San Diego visited the shooting site and memorial for Ibarra.
Following the shooting, Lucas was placed on administrative leave while police investigated the incident. He was later placed on administrative duty before being allowed to return to patrol duties, Takeuchi said.
A screenshot of the photo at the center of the allegations under investigation - an image that has been shared on social media by activists and organizations including United Against Police Terror San Diego - show the makeshift memorial for Ibarra: candles and handmade signs, including one that reads, "Justice 4 Leo."
Written over the image are "#Eastside" and emojis that depict a series of faces laughing and crying out tears and faces with open mouths wailing, with streams of tears flowing from closed eyes.
It's unclear what the hashtag refers to.