Two Torrance police officers involved in the racist text messaging scandal were indicted in the 2018 fatal shooting of a Black man holding an airgun, according to one of the defense attorneys. police officer treatment.
Defense attorney Tom Yu confirmed Thursday that Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez have been indicted in the murder of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, a 23-year-old suspected car thief.
Yu said he did not know what charges the officers would face, but the trial is expected to take place early next week.
Concannon’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment. An attorney representing Mitchell’s family said he has not been notified of the indictment.
Former County. Atty. Jackie Lacey acquitted both officials in 2018, but the case was because one of her four successors, George Gascón, promised to reopen once he was elected in 2020.
Special Counsel Lawrence Middleton, whom Gascón hired to review those cases independently of the district attorney’s office, began presented evidence to a grand jury last month.
In December 2018, Concannon and Chavez went to see Mitchell, who is suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, in Ralph’s parking lot in Torrance, according to an earlier district attorney’s office memo about the incident. justifying officials of wrongdoing.
The officers parked behind Mitchell, got out of their cars, and shouted, “Police!” Initially, Mitchell put his hands on the steering wheel, according to the memo.
Officers repeatedly ordered Mitchell to get out of the car, but he did not comply, according to reports. As they approached him, officers noticed Mitchell’s hand move toward his thigh, where Concannon saw what he believed to be a gun. They opened fire.
Officers described the weapon, later identified as a “barreled airgun”, as “sandwich” between Mitchell’s legs, though it is not alleged that he grabbed it or pointed it at it. them before they shot him.
“Based on Mitchell’s failure to follow police instructions, his continued efforts to conceal the object in his lap, the appearance of the object, and the movement of his hand toward the object, the police believe the subject is a firearm and in response with deadly force,” read the initial memo from the district attorney’s office refusing to charge the officers in 2019. “Accordingly, the use of The use of deadly force by both officers was justified under the circumstances.”
When news of Middleton’s pursuit of a grand jury indictment broke last month, Yu told The Times that the move to seek an indictment came years after Lacey had clarified to his client. His claim of misconduct was “purely politically motivated and due to Mr. Gascón’s campaign promises to him. ingredient.”
Concannon and Chavez were among the 15 officers involved a racist text message scandal in the Torrance Police Department after a search warrant in a criminal case against two other officers issued a series of messages sent between 2018 and 2020 making horrific, violent and racist comments about Black people. black and Latino, members of the LGBTQ community, and members of Judaism.
The Times found no evidence that Concannon and Chavez sent racist messages, but several sources and documents reviewed by the newspaper confirm they were part of a text string and are being investigated as a part of the scandal. Mitchell’s death was discussed several times in text messages, with unidentified officers using the N-word to describe the dead man’s loved ones and others praising the violence. against protesters who want the officers charged.
The status of both officers with the department remains unclear. Chavez and Concannon did not appear on a copy of the Torrance Police Department listing provided to The Times in response to a request for public records filed last year. But Sergeant. Ron Salary, a spokesman for Torrance police and Concannon’s attorney, said he is still employed as an officer.
Salary declined to comment on the status of Chavez’s job and did not respond to a request for comment on the indictment on Thursday.