California’s attorney general said Thursday that he won’t release older records on state law enforcement agents’ misconduct despite a recently released appeals court ruling that they are public documents.
That’s prompting criticism from the Democratic state senator who authored last year’s police transparency law. It requires law enforcement agencies to publicly release records on police shootings and officer misconduct.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra argued that last week’s decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal isn’t binding. His interpretation conflicts with other attorneys and law enforcement leaders who said the ruling means that records created before the law took effect Jan. 1 are subject to disclosure.
Becerra and a police union’s lawyer said the ruling merely lifted a stay on a lower court decision that supported releasing the records, but isn’t a ruling on the merits. Police unions in multiple counties have sued to block releasing the records, while public information advocates say the records should be disclosed.
“As soon as we have an official decision on the merits, we’ll be prepared to act based on that official decision,” Becerra said.
Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley said her bill was intended to be retroactive as she sharply questioned her fellow Democrat’s decision not to comply with the appeals court ruling.
“As the person who is responsible for in effect enforcing the laws of the state of California … one cannot opt not to follow a law that was enacted in the state of California,” she said during an hours-long oversight committee hearing. She added dismissively later that, “it’s like an elective decision as to which of our laws you will enforce and which you won’t.”
Becerra praised lawmakers for passing a bill he said advances police transparency, but said he is being cautious because it overturns a longstanding law granting police special privacy protections.
“I’ve always taken the position that when it comes to privacy, you get one chance to do it right,” he told committee members. “If you disclose someone’s private information and you were wrong, you can’t un-ring that bell, that private information is now out there for everyone to see and you cannot sort of pull it back.”
He said there have been several conflicting court decisions, but he expects a final decision soon.
The budget oversight committee also delayed a decision on Becerra’s request for more money to enforce a program that seizes firearms from people who no longer are allowed to own them because they have been convicted of felonies or have a history of domestic violence or mental illness.
Becerra blames a lingering lag in investigations on an increase in gun possessions and too few special agents, despite an infusion of $24 million in 2013 that was supposed to be enough to eliminate the backlog within three years. His proposed budget would add $5.6 million, for a total of nearly $17 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
But while Republicans have long criticized Becerra and his Democratic predecessor for the persistent backlog, Democrats on the subcommittee were clearly impatient as well.
Democratic Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose compared the program to the beleaguered Department of Motor Vehicles that he said may need wholesale changes.
“I’m kind of hard pressed to just throw more money at it,” he said.
The man accused of fatally shooting rapper Nipsey Hussle pleaded not guilty to charges during his arraignment on Thursday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced on Thursday.
Eric Holder was charged with a single count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possessions of a firearm by felon, according to a news release from the DA's office. The complaint also alleges he used a firearm and caused great bodily injury and death.
Holder was arraigned in a downtown L.A. courtroom on Thursday afternoon. His next scheduled court appearance is set for May 10, according to prosecutors.
The 29-year-old was arrested in Bellflower on Tuesday afternoon following a tip from the general public, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Holder is accused of fatally shooting the Grammy-nominated artist outside his clothing store in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, LAPD officials said.
Hussle, 33, died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso, according to the L.A. County coroner's office.
Two others were wounded in the incident.
The following day, police identified Holder as the suspect in the slaying, indicating he had been involved with some type of personal dispute with Hussle.
Hours after LAPD Chief Michel Moore urged the suspect to surrender, he was captured in Bellflower.
A witness who asked to remain anonymous told KTLA he called 911 after noticing a man screaming and acting strange in the 9900 block of Artesia Boulevard.
L.A. County sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene and detained the man until LAPD homicide detectives responded and positively identified him as Holder, police said.
The suspect was then booked on suspicion of murder. He is being held on $5 million bail, prosecutors said.
Holder faces up to life in prison if convicted on all charges, according to the DA's office.
KTLA's Dianne Sanchez contributed to this story.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Nipsey Hussle had won a Grammy. He was nominated for best rap album for "Victory Lap" in 2018. The post has been updated.
A man was fatally shot by police as authorities were serving a search warrant in Anaheim Thursday morning.
The incident occurred about 11:30 a.m. along the 500 block of North Harcourt Street, Anaheim Police Department officials said.
SWAT officers were assisting Irvine police in serving a search warrant involving two barricaded suspects, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Luis Correa.
" During a search of the detached garage, Irvine detectives found a loaded rifle and heard noises coming from the attic," the sergeant said in a written statement.
SWAT officers responded to the scene, police said. Both suspects in the attic refused orders to come down and surrender.
Officers managed to use tear has to flush one of the men out of the attic, but he remained "uncooperative," Correa said. Police used less-lethal weapons to subdue him.
"A second male suspect remained barricaded in the attic and made verbal statements he would shoot officers," according to Correa. "Ultimately, an officer-involved shooting occurred."
Paramedics pronounced the wounded suspect dead at the scene.
The man who came down from the attic and a second person, both parolees, were arrested by Irvine police.
No further details were available.
A special coroner’s jury in California ruled the deaths of two women and their six adopted children was a murder-suicide after hearing testimony that one of the women had searched death by drowning online and the other deliberately stepped on the gas, sending their SUV plunging off a cliff.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour Thursday before returning the unanimous verdicts that Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves on March 26, 2018, in Mendocino County. The jury decided the six children, 12 to 19, died at the hands of another and not by accident.
Authorities had indicated they believed the crash was deliberate but wanted a jury to make official findings.
A coroner’s inquest is generally used in cases involving in-custody deaths or officer-involved shootings where public interest is high and the need for transparency critical, said Mendocino County sheriff’s Capt. Gregory L. Van Patten.
The deaths drew national attention, partly because the women were alleged to have abused their children. The body of Devonte Hart, 15, who was black and had gained attention when he was photographed in tears while hugging a white police officer during a 2014 protest in Portland, Oregon, has not been recovered.
Jurors were instructed to choose from four manners of death for each of the eight people: natural causes, suicide, accident or an intentional act by another. They sat through nearly two full days of testimony.
“It is my belief that both Jennifer and Sarah succumbed to a lot of pressure,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said Thursday. “Just a lot of stuff going on in their lives, to the point where they made this conscious decision to end their lives this way and take their children’s lives.”
The crash happened days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation into allegations of neglect. The bodies of both women were found in the vehicle, which landed below a cliff located more than 160 miles north of San Francisco.
The Hart family had fled their Woodland, Washington, home March 23 after a visit from social workers that day.
Sarah Hart searched suicide, drowning, Benadryl dosages and overdose methods on the internet throughout the drive to California, California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates said. She also queried whether death by drowning would be painful. Authorities recovered the deleted searches from her phone.
“They both decided that this was going to be the end,” Slates said. “That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”
The bodies of siblings Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail were found the same day near the car. Weeks later, the body of Ciera Hart was pulled from the Pacific Ocean. Hannah Hart was eventually identified through a DNA match.
Slates said that Jennifer Hart, who rarely drank, had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit and may have been “drinking to build up her courage.” Sarah Hart had 42 doses of generic Benadryl in her system and the children also had high amounts of the sleep-inducing drug in their bodies, he said.
A neighbor of the Harts had filed a complaint with the state, saying the children were apparently being deprived of food as punishment. No one answered when social workers went to the family’s home.
A witness who was camping by their vehicle says he heard their car rev up and peal out around 3 a.m. March 26.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children. Oregon child welfare officials also investigated the couple in 2013, but closed the case without taking any action.
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