SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A La Mesa Police officer who fired a beanbag round that struck and injured a 59-year-old woman during a protest last May will not be held criminally liable, the DA's office says.
A review from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office determined La Mesa Police Detective Eric Knudson doesn't bear state criminal liability for his actions on May 30, 2020.
Last year, protesters gathered outside LMPD to protest racial justice and the recent controversial arrest of a Black man at a trolley station by a former La Mesa officer. The peaceful protest later turned violent, as rocks and bottles began being tossed at the police station.
As the protest continued, Knudson and other officers responded. Knudson fired one beanbag round at a protester attempting to throw a gas canister back at police, but missed, the DA's office said. Knudson then saw Leslie Furcron, another protester, throw something toward a Sheriff's deputy, according to the DA. Knudson fired a beanbag round at Furcron from about 96 feet away, striking her in the head.
The DA's office said Knudson mistakenly believed Furcron had thrown a rock when she had thrown a can. However, the DA's review said that "his belief was not unreasonable given the totality of the circumstances the officers were dealing with, placed in the context of the violent riot taking place at his location, fires set at City Hall, and other information that informed his actions."
Furcron suffered severe injuries from the beanbag round and was hospitalized following the incident. She was later released from the hospital in June.
"The fact that Ms. Furcron suffered serious injuries is a tragedy, however, the law and the evidence do not support a finding that Detective Knudsen committed a crime in this case," the review stated. "The DA’s review concluded that amid the violent riot that had broken out and the attacks on Sheriff’s deputies and officers, Knudson was acting in defense of others and himself when he fired the beanbag round. Under the totality of the circumstances and analysis of the law, Knudson therefore bears no state criminal liability for his actions."
Furcron's attorney Dante Pride called the decision an injustice.
"It's a sad decision. Her life was almost taken from her, and there's no accountability. There is nothing that Ms. Furcron did that warranted that type of force upon her ... It was quiet around the time of the shooting. It was very calm and quiet. He had a deadly, dangerous weapon and a duty to exercise the most care when firing the weapon ... No only did he fire the weapon when he shouldn't have, he aimed and fired and hit her in the head. That's against department policy and the manufacturer's policy," said Pride.
The La Mesa Police Department issued a statement Wednesday afternoon to ABC 10news after the DA's decision.
"We are aware of the District Attorney's announcement from earlier today regarding Detective Knudson. We will now be working to complete our internal administrative review of the incident. Detective Knudson remains on paid administrative leave pending the results of that review."