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Journalists Have Filed a Lawsuit to Obtain LAPD Body-Worn Camera Footage of a 2020 Shooting

Screenshot of an LAPD critical incident video with Kelly Muñiz from the LAPD addressing the audience in the foreground.
Screenshot from the introduction of an LAPD critical incident video. (LAPD YouTube channel)

Journalists Ben Camacho and Sahra Sulaiman have filed a lawsuit against the LAPD alleging defiance of the California Public Records Act by withholding body-worn camera footage of the June 3, 2020, shooting of Jermaine Welch. Welch was a bystander at the intersection of Broadway and 86th Place when LAPD opened fire into a crowd of people.

On the night of June 3, 2020, Jermaine Welch was making deliveries for Weedies when he drove up to a crowd of people at the intersection of Broadway and 86th Place. He heard someone shout “fuck cops” shortly before seeing a bright light and being hit by bullets. He was shot six times.

Jermaine had no idea who shot him but drove away with a bullet lodged in his lung, another in his abdomen, and another having damaged the hand he used to protect his face so badly that he came close to losing his fingers. When he woke up in a hospital bed, he was restrained. His doctors told him he had been placed in restraints because LAPD was treating him as a suspect in the shooting.

On July 24, 2020, Knock LA journalist Ben Camacho submitted a public records request to LAPD seeking the body-worn video (BWV) footage for any and all officers present at the June 3, 2020 shooting. The department has delayed the production of footage more than 10 times and now claims the videos won’t be available until “at least January 2024.”

Early on in the process, the department pointed to their critical incident video as sufficient disclosure in response to the public records request. Critical incident videos are videos put out by local law enforcement that summarize an incident when force is used, through the sharing of 911 calls, timelines, and in-car and on-person video footage, along with evidence collected. These professionally produced videos are how police departments comply with state law AB 748, which requires the release of video after shootings and other use-of-force incidents in which police cause bodily harm within 45 days.

However, the video includes only one clip of the shooting itself. The clip begins approximately one second before the officer shoots their gun and leaves out the moments leading up to the shooting.

Every critical incident video put out by LAPD contains a video clip featuring the captain of LAPD’s Media Relations Division explaining that the body-worn video cameras automatically and continuously record a full two minutes of video prior to the moment of camera activation. This means there are two full minutes missing from the clip that was included in LAPD’s official critical incident video. The missing footage would reveal what the officers saw, what they were doing, and what led up to the officer shooting toward the crowd. 

The LA Board of Police Commissioners’ report on the shooting also acknowledges that BWV footage from eight other officers exists. However, no videos from the other officers’ body-worn cameras are included in the critical incident video. 

Shakeer Rahman, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, says that the critical incident videos tell a story, but not the full story: “LAPD’s body-camera program is used entirely for surveillance and propaganda. As soon as LAPD kills someone, its multimillion-dollar PR department slices footage from the cop’s body camera into narrated videos that serve to mislead and confuse the public about what happened.”

The lawsuit, along with Sahra Sulaiman’s reporting on other incident videos, points to the ongoing problem of the department deliberately editing these videos to be misleading and incomplete.

In December 2021, Sahra Sulaiman reported on LAPD’s critical incident video of the shooting of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta in North Hollywood. When LAPD officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. shot Daniel Elena Lopez with an assault rifle inside a clothing store, one of the rounds went through the wall of the dressing room where Valentina was hiding and killed her. The critical incident video that was later released was edited to mislead the public, who were criticizing the department for killing Valentina, about the circumstances of the shooting.

Sulaiman says that the “moment that LAPD chooses to cut the security footage to another angle was deliberate and obscures the public’s ability to accurately understand the shooting.”

These stylized and edited videos are a part of a multimillion-dollar public relations operation. In 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that LAPD was paying 25 people for public relations work, costing taxpayers almost $3.3 million a year, in order to publicize one-sided narratives about police shootings. 

One private firm, Cole Pro Media, worked with at least 30 different police agencies across California in 2020 to produce critical incident videos that help shape the public’s knowledge of an incident through police narratives. Notably, Cole Pro Media is run by a former news anchor, Laura Cole, who approaches controversial incidents with scripts for police departments and teaches classes that show agencies “how to make reporters work for you” by “managing the mainstream media.” The style of videos Cole Pro Media has produced is nearly identical to the way LAPD crafts their videos.

The plaintiffs hope to receive all the footage from the June 3 shooting without further delay. Both plaintiffs lament the fact that it takes a lawsuit for the department to comply with the request to provide documentation and recordings they feel they are legally entitled to per California Public Records law. They hope that with the rest of the unedited footage, the public will have a better understanding of what actually happened the night of June 3 and that it will show that Jermaine Welch is a victim, not a suspect. 

Ben Camacho is a writer for Knock LA covering issues related to policing in the city and county of Los Angeles.

The post Journalists Have Filed a Lawsuit to Obtain LAPD Body-Worn Camera Footage of a 2020 Shooting appeared first on Knock LA.

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LAPD’s Commission Rules on the Killing of Valentina Orellana Peralta and Daniel Elena Lopez

Portrait of LSPD officer William Dorsey Jones, Jr. in uniform next to the U.S. flag
Officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. (Jones Jr.’s Facebook page)

On November 22, 2022, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that one of the shots LAPD officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. fired at Daniel Elena Lopez was within LAPD policy. While responding to a 911 call about Elena Lopez hitting store customers with a bike lock on December 23, 2021, Jones fired three rounds, killing Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta. Elena Lopez was 24 and Orellana Peralta was 14. The commission ruled that the first of three shots was in policy despite LAPD Chief Michel Moore suggesting all three were out of policy. Both rulings could potentially lead to disciplinary measures for Jones. However, to date, none have been announced.

According to a report from Moore, Elena Lopez had several exchanges with women at nearby residences, which resulted in 911 calls nearly an hour before Elena Lopez entered the Burlington store. The report describes Elena Lopez as attempting to bar a woman from entering her residence, then being pepper-sprayed by the woman. He then struck her multiple times until a nearby person intervened and Elena Lopez fled into a parking garage. Meanwhile, a person involved in the previous exchange called 911. In the parking garage, Elena Lopez asked another person for milk to flush his eyes. The person told Elena Lopez to wait for them to retrieve it, but Elena Lopez forced his way into their nearby apartment. He proceeded to steal a carton of milk from the apartment refrigerator and began dumping it on his head and face. Another person seeing this also called 911 as Elena Lopez was making his way to the Burlington store.

Camera footage of Officers beginning to move toward Daniel Elena Lopez in a store
Officers begin to move toward Daniel Elena Lopez in North Hollywood. (LAPD, body-worn video footage of William Dorsey Jones Jr.)

On the day of the shooting, LAPD officers responded to several 911 calls from a Burlington store in North Hollywood. Several callers incorrectly claimed that there was an active shooter inside the store. By the time the officers arrived, Elena Lopez had attacked several people inside the store with a bicycle lock. Jones was one of the last officers to arrive during the response, and met a team that had already made their way to the second floor of the store. As an officer announced to others, “Victim down!” Jones ran to the front.

Body-worn camera footage of officers telling officer Dorsey Jones Jr. to slow down
Another officer tells Jones to slow down. (LAPD, body-worn video of William Dorsey Jones Jr.)

Jones told the other officers to back up and to “slow down, slow down, let me take point with the rifle.” After another officer pointed out that Elena Lopez was hitting a woman with a bicycle lock, Jones began running toward Elena Lopez. At least one officer told Jones to slow down as he continued advancing toward Elena Lopez. When Jones began announcing to the other officers that a woman was bleeding, one officer told him to “hold up, Jones.” However, Jones arrived near the bleeding woman just as Elena Lopez was turning away and placing the bike lock on the floor. At that point, Jones fired three rounds in close succession into Elena Lopez. Two of those rounds went through the wall into a dressing room behind Elena Lopez, where one struck and killed Orellana Peralta.

Snippet from the LA coroner's report on the death of Valentina Orellana Peralta
A section of the coroner’s report stating two bullets traveled past Elena Lopez. (Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner)

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, the bullet that struck Orellana Peralta traveled through the wall of the dressing room in which Orellana Peralta and her mother, Soledad Peralta, were located. According to LAPD, a .556mm from Jones’ rifle “skipped” off of the floor. The coroner’s office said another bullet strike mark and perforation were found in a gray bench seat and wall just west of Elena Lopez.

The Police Commission, Use of Force Review Board, and Chief Moore Find Officers Used Bad Tactics

The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that six of the officers present used bad tactics during the incident. As a result, they received administrative disapproval from the commission. Moore’s report states that the officers present at the scene thought an active shooter was inside the store despite an officer named Mazur broadcasting that Elena Lopez was armed with a bike lock before Jones arrived. An administrative disapproval ruling from the commission can range from no discipline other than a mention within an officer’s personnel record to full termination.

The Use of Force Review Board found that the sergeant on scene, Case, did not “appear to be willing to assume the role” of command despite being nominally in charge of the response at the Burlington store. After adjudication by the commission, Case received administrative disapproval. 

Flow chart describing how LAPD rules on use of force
A flow chart describing how LAPD rules on use of force. (LAPD Office of the Inspector General)

Before the commission votes on findings regarding use of force, a Use of Force Review Board provides recommendations to the chief of police. The police chief then makes recommendations to the commission, whose members review and rule on those recommendations. Additionally, the Office of the Inspector General provides a report to the police commission.

The majority of a Use of Force Review Board found that officer Jones “inaccurately assessed the imminence of the threat of death or serious bodily injury Elena Lopez posed,” when he fired three shots at Elena Lopez. Police Chief Moore agreed with this assessment. The commission then ruled that Jones’ first shot was within policy, but the subsequent two shots were out of policy.

Valentina Orellana Peralta’s mother and father have filed a lawsuit naming LAPD, Burlington Stores Inc., and William Dorsey Jones Jr. as defendants. It alleges wrongful death (negligence), as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit states that LAPD was in part responsible for the death of their daughter due to their officers being “poorly supervised” and “poorly trained.” The suit also alleges that the officers on the scene did not provide adequate or timely medical treatment to Valentina Orellana Peralta or her mother and claims Orellana Peralta survived for “a period of time and, therefore, suffered extreme physical and mental pain prior to her horrible [death].”

Journalists trying to take photos at V. Orellana-Peralta's funeral being blocked by a representative of her family holding up a large photo of her
A representative of the Orellana Peralta family uses a photo of her to block press from taking pictures of her body. (Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

The shooting of both Orellana Peralta and Elena Lopez has received national press coverage and sparked local protests for more than a month. Attorney Ben Crump and members of the National Action Network, including Reverend Al Sharpton, spoke at the funeral for Orellana Peralta. At the same time, various journalists jumped on stage and jockeyed for position to get photos of Orellana Peralta’s corpse in an open casket. Also during the funeral, a reporter attempted a “stand up,” introducing coverage while prayers for Orellana Peralta were being conducted. Representatives of the family asked the reporter to leave. On February 20, 2022, the families of the victims of high-profile incidents of police violence like Jacob Blake Jr., Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd attended a protest which marched through the Burlington store.

Daniel Elena Lopez’s sister Crystal addresses a crowd outside Burlington in North Hollywood while holding a megaphone and a picture of her brother
Daniel Elena Lopez’s sister Crystal addresses a crowd outside Burlington in North Hollywood. (Sean Beckner-Carmitchel)

Who Were Daniel Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta and Who Is William Dorsey Jones Jr.?

Elena Lopez was described as a person who loved his family. Elena Lopez’s sister Crystal told protesters, “That wasn’t my brother. My brother was funny, he always liked to tell jokes. He liked to play pranks.” According to his sister, Elena Lopez was struggling with addiction but was looking forward to the first birthday in three years he could spend with his family in person. “I know he was battling a lot, he was going through addiction. We don’t know … if he was hungry, if he was cold, if he felt alone … and they took his life. The police are put here to protect and serve the community but instead they have license to kill.”

At a press conference outside LAPD HQ, Orellana Peralta’s father displayed a skateboard they’d planned to give her for Christmas. Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas told reporters that he would “have to take it to the grave, so she can skate with the angels.” Orellana Peralta’s mother told reporters via an interpreter that her daughter “was full of joy and had big dreams for her future.”

Knock LA has previously profiled Jones’ early life in Louisville, Kentucky, and eventual employment as a senior lead officer as well as his active but now-deleted Twitter presence. As of September 2022, Jones was still a coach for the Valencia High School football team and was confronted by a group of protesters at a game.

Both Moore and the police commission’s findings could lead to Jones being disciplined or even fired. In that case, Jones could appeal to LAPD’s Board of Rights. The Board of Rights has been criticized by groups like the ACLU for “lacking transparency,” as well as undermining LAPD through “excessive leniency.” During the same meeting that ruled on Jones’ shooting, the commission discussed a 56-page report by the inspector general outlining concerns regarding the Board of Rights.

The post LAPD’s Commission Rules on the Killing of Valentina Orellana Peralta and Daniel Elena Lopez appeared first on Knock LA.

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It's Bodies vs. the State

In this week’s The Reason Roundtable, editors Matt Welch, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Nick Gillespie discuss the latest protests against “zero-Covid” policies in China as well as other examples of lingering public health authoritarianism.

0:57: China’s protests against harsh “zero-Covid” policies

14:20: Lingering COVID restrictionism in the U.S.

33:10: Weekly Listener Question:

I have found, what is for me, a paradox. I want to hear what y’all think of it, but I am primarily interested in hearing from Katherine, since she is a woman and women account for some 51 percent of the population. My personal paradox is this: How is it that women are 51 percent of the market and yet cannot find women’s pants with pockets? Free minds. Free markets. No Potemkin pockets.

40:54: World Cup controversies

49:18: This week’s cultural recommendations

Mentioned in this podcast:

‘We Want Freedom’: Chinese Protests Reflect Frustration With Country’s Continuing COVID Restrictions,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

The Pandemic Is Over, Except When Politicians Need It To Justify Their Plans,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

California’s COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’ Law Chills Constitutionally Protected Speech,” by Jacob Sullum

Hong Kong Is a ‘Wake-Up Call for the World’,” by Zach Weissmueller

Never Lock Down Again? Jay Bhattacharya vs. Sten Vermund,” by Gene Epstein

‘A Pretty Scary Moment’: Dissident Chinese Students Say George Washington University Is Failing Them,” by Sarah McLaughlin

Can The Iran Protests Do Better Than Uprisings of the Past?” by J.D. Tuccille

The Qatar World Cup Is a Celebration of Authoritarianism,” by Eric Boehm

5 Cities That Got F*cked by Hosting the Olympics,” by Nick Gillespie

Assimilating Soccer,” by Nick Gillespie

The Power Broker,” by Howard McConnell

Send your questions to roundtable@reason.com. Be sure to include your social media handle and the correct pronunciation of your name.

Today’s sponsor:

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Audio production by Ian Keyser

Assistant production by Hunt Beaty

Music: “Angeline,” by The Brothers Steve


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Ballot Curing Could Flip Key Races in LA Elections: An Explainer 

A person wearing a watch places their ballot into a ballot box. An "I voted" sticker is right next to their hand.
An LA County ballot box. (LA County)

It’s been nearly three weeks since Election Day, and while some key races have already been decided — Los Angeles prevented billionaire Rick Caruso from buying the mayoral election and ousted far-right-supported Sheriff Alex Villanueva as head of the deadliest sheriff’s department in the country — there are still critical city- and state-level races that could be decided during the ballot curing process. 

What Is Ballot Curing?

Ballot curing is the process of helping a voter with a rejected ballot correct it to make sure their vote counts. Ballots are usually rejected for not including required information or for having a mismatched signature. 

In California, ballots are checked for missing or mismatched signatures on the ballot envelope. The signature is matched against whatever signature the county has on file for you — which could be from the last time you updated a driver’s license or applied for a parking permit with the city. 

How Do I Know If My Ballot Needs to Be Corrected?

The easiest way to check whether your ballot has been counted is to check your mail ballot status here. If BallotTrax does not say “completed” after you have filled out the required information, there should be a reason listed as to why your ballot was rejected. 

Residents of Los Angeles County can also check with the registrar to see if and when their ballot was verified.

If your ballot was rejected for a signature problem, Los Angeles County officials are supposed to contact you within 24 hours to reach out and give you an opportunity to verify your ballot and have it counted. Depending on your communication preferences, they can reach out to you via text, email, or a phone call. 

If you see that your ballot was rejected and have not been contacted by a county official, you can go to a voting center and cast a provisional ballot. You can also contact the county for assistance by calling (800) 815-2666, or by emailing them at email hidden; JavaScript is required
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.

What Is the Deadline for Ballot Curing for Los Angeles County?

Under California law, “voters of ballots with mismatching signatures are notified a minimum of eight days prior to certification of the election.” 

So while election officials are supposed to contact voters with rejected ballots within 24 hours of receiving them, they technically have through the first week of December to complete the ballot curing process.

County election officials must finalize official results by December 8, 2022, so results can be certified by December 16, 2022. 

What Los Angeles County Races Could Ballot Curing Impact? 

There are still a few key races across the county that could potentially be impacted by the ballot curing process — namely West Hollywood City Council, the California District 34 US representative race, the Assembly District 40 race, and the Culver City measure that determines whether or not 16- and 17-year-old residents can vote in school board and city elections. 

The West Hollywood City Council race has 12 candidates vying for three seats.. While Mayor Lauren Meister seems to have a comfortable lead, Chelsea Byers and Zekiah Wright (both of whom Knock LA recommended), former mayor of West Hollywood John Heilman, and public safety commissioner Robert Oliver are duking it out for spots 2–5. 

The race for United States representative of California’s 34th district could also flip in favor of David Kim (whom Knock LA also recommended) against incumbent Jimmy Gomez. As of November 22, Gomez leads by 3,024 votes. 

The race for Assembly District 40 is also neck-and-neck between Knock LA–recommended Pilar Schiavo and incumbent Suzette Martinez Valladares, who was endorsed by the anti-abortion group California Pro-Life Council. As of November 22, there is a difference just shy of 500 votes in favor of Schiavo. 

Culver City’s Measure VY is the closest of local races that could potentially be impacted by ballot curing. As of the last vote count, 8,275 people had voted in favor of allowing younger people to start participating in local elections, and 8,280 against. That is a hairline of a margin with just a .04% more in favor of the measure.  

Does Ballot Curing Happen in Every State?

Nope! According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), only 24 states have some sort of ballot curing procedure. The rest of the states and territories do not count ballots with mismatched or missing envelope signatures. So while the process of waiting for election results can be a nail-biting one, California’s lucky to have a process that allows people to correct their ballots for whatever clerical reason. 

Can I Use Ballot Curing to Change My Vote?

No.

The post Ballot Curing Could Flip Key Races in LA Elections: An Explainer  appeared first on Knock LA.

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Maryam Namazie on the women’s revolution in Iran

Two months ago, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini traveled from her hometown in the province of Kurdistan to the Iranian capital, Tehran, to visit her brother. She was arrested by the morality police getting off the subway for failing to cover her hair properly, in accordance with Iran’s Sharia law. Three days later, she was dead, beaten severly in the head. Iranian women said “No more,” and launched an uprising. Protests and demonstrations have been ongoing ever since. In this episode, Meghan Murphy speaks with Maryam Namazie, a secularist, feminist, and human rights activist, about the uprisings, the history of Saria law and women’s rights in Iran, and how Western feminists can better support Iranian women in their fight for freedom.

Maryam Namazie on the women’s revolution in Iran





Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.



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