LMPD Release of Critical Incident Video from Use of Force Incident

La Mesa police on Wednesday named the officer whose bean-bag round left protester Leslie Furcron blind in one eye after a Black Lives Matter protest, and released video of her throwing an object.

The officer was identified as Detective Eric Knudson, a 12-year veteran of the La Mesa Police Department who two years ago was hailed by colleagues as the “nicest guy I ever met.” Knudson is on paid administrative leave, Police Chief Walt Vasquez said in a statement.

Vasquez said the county District Attorney’s Office has been briefed on the case, and will review the apparently yet-to-be-completed investigation to determine if Knudson bears any criminal liability stemming from the incident.

La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez (left) posed with Officer Eric Knudson at a 2018 Salute to Local Heroes event sponsored by the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Mary York via eccalifornian.com

Enhanced video shows Furcron using her right hand to throw something in a side-arm motion — in the direction of sheriff’s deputies in a nearly empty parking lot. Within five seconds, she’s down on the ground.

Another view, from police body-cam video, shows an officer’s long gun discharging five seconds after the throw — which was not in his direction. Knudson, on an elevated patio at the La Mesa police station, was 96 feet away, police said.

After the shooting, another officer is heard saying: “That guy. That was the guy who’s throwing things. The guy who is down right now.”

The timeline released by La Mesa police:

  • 8:16:10 PM One subject down (Leslie Furcron)
  • 8:16:49 PM Crowd is carrying the downed female out to University
  • 8:17:04 PM Possible bean bag hit her
  • 8:17:22 PM Female loaded up into a white 4-door vehicle heading eastbound on University
  • 8:17:27 PM CFS #635 (another call) for the female that was shot by possible bean bag

That night, looters and arsonists roamed La Mesa’s downtown village and the nearby La Mesa Springs shopping center, burning two banks and a historic building that contained an architecture firm.

La Mesa police have yet to disclose the results of an independent investigation into the May 27 arrest of Amaurie Johnson near the Grossmont Trolley Station, whose video led to the May 30 protest among nationwide events over the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police.

In releasing the new information in the case, La Mesa police noted that the protest had devolved into violence, looting and arson prior to the wounding of Furcron.

“For … several hours, officers were continuously attacked and struck with large (baseball- to softball-sized) rocks, water bottles (many of which were frozen), and pots and pans,” department officials asserted in a prepared statement.

“The police station was seriously vandalized, to include acts of arson, spray painting and the breaking of windows. … La Mesa City Hall and (its) council chambers sustained extensive fire and looting damage.”

In March 2018, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce honored Knudson at its annual Salute to Local Heroes event.

“Eric Knudsen has worked for La Mesa Police Department for 10 years,” said coverage by the La Mesa Courier. “During that time, he garnered a reputation for being a role model and mentor to all the employees he has trained.”

The story said Knudson was hailed by Vasquez as an excellent resource “who makes himself available to his peers, answering phone calls day or night, both on and off duty. [His] positive demeanor around fellow officers or citizens of La Mesa has earned him the recognition as being, ‘The nicest guy I ever met.’”

According to Transparent California, Knudson in 2018 made $113,000, including overtime and other pay. His total pay and benefits was reported as $179,000.

On June 10, Furcron spoke briefly outside La Mesa City Hall. Her lawyer said she was wounded for being heard saying “Murderers.”

Pride said at the time he spoke to at last five witnesses who all said she was taking a drink from a can and threw it on the ground.

“She littered,” he said. “She’s a 59-year-old woman. There’s no way she had the strength or power … to throw a can from where she was [wounded] to all the way where the officer was.”

He said a La Mesa police officer targeted her for what Furcron said.

“She said to the police: ‘You guys are murderers.’ And after she said that, that’s when she was shot (in retaliation),” Pride said after she spoke to media following a slow trip with a walker. (He also apologized for her late arrival — on account of a flat tire.)

In a separate video released Wednesday, Chief Vasquez said he continued to pray for Furcron and hoped “that she continues to heal and makes a full recovery with her family at home.”

He concluded: “Rest assured, the men and women of the La Mesa Police Department are committed to providing quality and professional police service to our community. It is my hope that we will continue to heal the wounds, nurture an environment of open communication and make La Mesa a safer place to live.” 

Updated at 9:15 p.m. July 22, 2020.

— Chris Stone and City News Service contributed to this report.