Christian Dorscht: Off-Duty Officers and Arrests in a Crowd
February 24, 2017 (Fault Lines) – On Tuesday, February 21st, an unidentified off-duty Los Angeles Police officer attempted to detain a 13-year-old Latino, Christian Dorscht, for allegedly threatening to shoot the officer in response to something the officer said to a teenaged girl. It went downhill from there. A scuffle broke out, and a single gunshot was fired. Although no one was injured, local civil rights activists are now calling for the officer’s head on a platter. Protests have occurred and the officer’s house was reported to have been vandalized.
There are going to be people who don’t like this, but the officer took action, in my opinion, that stopped the situation from getting worse. Let’s look at the situation by examining the video.
The video starts with the officer holding onto Christian, and they are struggling back and forth. You can see a girl pulling on Christian’s backpack in an effort to free him from the officer. At about 0:30 you see another teenager in a white shirt and with a red backpack approach—remember this guy, you’ll see him later—and try to corner the officer. Along with him, there is an African-American in a dark hoodie and khaki pants, and another kid wearing jeans and a dark backpack.
At 1:20, the officer tells Christian that Christian should not have threatened to shoot him (which Christian denied, saying that he said he would “sue” the officer). Although I’m not a California lawyer, I believe that California is like most states where a peace officer can arrest for any offense that is committed in his presence, even if he is off-duty.
Threatening to shoot someone in California can fall under misdemeanor Criminal Threat and would be an arrestable offense. It doesn’t matter at this point whether Christian said shoot or sue. That is a question of fact; what matters is that probable cause exists for the officer to take Christian into custody.
As this is going on, other young men are circling the officer as the officer tries to back away while still maintaining control of Christian. At 2:00, the black kid has taken off his hoodie and backpack and places them on the ground before approaching the officer and interfering with his detention of Christian by putting his hands on the officer. The officer orders him to back off, but he refuses to do so. Earlier I said to remember the guy in the white shirt: at 2:10, he comes charging in as if to tackle the officer and knocks him through a line of hedges.
At this point, you have a full out assault on the officer. The officer is trying to maintain control of Christian, but two others have assaulted him, and more are about to join in. The black kid takes a swing at the officer at 2:20, and yet another kid, this one in a maroon hoodie, jumps over the hedge and immediately reaches into his back pocket at 2:23. The officer is then facing Christian, three others across the hedge (two of whom have already assaulted him) and one other who is potentially reaching for a knife or other weapon.
I would have drawn my gun too, if I were in that situation. A gang of teenagers can beat a single opponent down to the ground. If they do that to an officer, they can get his gun and kill the officer. Hell, they don’t even have to get to the gun, they can just beat him to death. The officer fires one shot into the dirt under the hedges, and the young thugs who were attacking him backed off.
I’m okay with that, although I’m generally against warning shots. Only an idiot would claim that the kids were innocent and weren’t about to attack the officer. There could be an argument made that the shot wasn’t appropriate, but from my viewing of the video, it is undisputable that those kids were going to try to beat down the officer. Once down, the officer would have been at their mercy.
Under those circumstances, policy or not, the shot into the ground was reasonable. Once the shot was fired, all of the assailants and all of the bystanders beat feet to get away, and the officer was able to maintain control until the Anaheim Police got there.
But this isn’t a typical police shooting. First, the officer is not part of the Anaheim PD, so an outside agency is conducting the criminal investigation while LAPD looks at possible policy issues. Next, it is in Orange County, not Los Angeles County, so it will be an outside prosecutor as well.
Now, of course, the boy’s mother is all bent out of shape, and understandably so. I would be too if my child was involved in something like this. She said:
I just want to say how disgusted I am by that individual for the negligence he committed with my son.
My son is alive today, but if he would have not fought for his life along with those other children, he would be in a morgue right now. You almost killed my child. Stop shooting our kids. This is my son. He is 13 years old. He was not armed. He was, he pulled out, he reached for his weapon, he intended to use it. (emphasis added)
The statement on fighting for his life is crap and is where I part company with the mother. It bears no resemblance to the truth. It is what has recently been identified as “alt-facts.” The only reason that the officer put a round into the dirt is exactly because your son, along with 4 or 5 others, fought the officer.
I think that the officer should be absolved of any charges, whether criminal or internal, and put back to work.
 The boy’s mother has publicly identified her son by name in regards to this incident, and his name has been widely reported in the media. My normal policy is to not identify juveniles.
 Another report states that it was not the officer’s house.