LOS ANGELES (CN) — A group of Black Lives Matter activists who rang Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s doorbell earlier this year were met by her husband holding a loaded handgun. The group sued the Laceys in LA County Superior Court over the incident, which they say was reckless.
David Lacey, a former investigator with the DA’s office, also faces three misdemeanor counts of assault in a criminal case filed by the California attorney general.
The incident took place the day before the March primary election, when a gathering of BLM members met outside the Lacey home in Granada Hills to remind Jackie Lacey of a promise she made to hold a public forum to discuss “issues of community concern,” according to their lawsuit filed Monday.
Out of the larger group who met on the sidewalk outside the Granada Hills home, three BLM members rang Lacey’s Ring doorbell. A video shared by the group shows Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito and Justin Marks identifying themselves before hearing a metallic clicking sound from behind the closed door.
Abdullah joked, “That doesn’t sound good.”
David Lacey opened the door with a loaded handgun and pointed it at Abdullah’s chest and then at Ferlito. Marks recorded the incident as all three stood on the front porch.
Abdullah said, “Good morning” and asked to speak with Jackie Lacey.
“Get off of my porch,” David Lacey says in the video. “I will shoot you.”
The trio walked away.
Later that day at a press conference, Jackie Lacey said: “My husband acted in fear for my safety after we were subjected to months of harassment that included a death threat no less than a week earlier.”
Civil rights attorney Carl Douglas called the incident a “reckless use of deadly force” by David Lacey.
“They didn’t hop some fence to get onto her property,” said Douglas, who is represented the plaintiffs, at a press conference Tuesday. He noted the group has protested outside the DA’s office in downtown LA over police shootings of unarmed Black and Latino civilians in LA County and were only seeking to meet with Lacey before the primary election.
“We were going to bring the meeting to her,” Abdullah added.
Ferlito said they expected to ring the doorbell and not get a response that morning.
“I was completely shocked in that moment. In that moment I had a thought, I have to keep filming, because maybe if I keep filming he won’t shoot me,” Ferlito told reporters.
Marks called David Lacey’s actions “unreasonable.”
“I was scared,” said Marks. “Not anything that’s happened before. It just seems unreasonable to open a door and pointed a loaded weapon.”
Abdullah and other members with BLM LA chapter have met outside the Hall of Justice in downtown LA for nearly three years to bring attention to the lack of criminal prosecutions against police who have shot and killed unarmed civilians in LA County. Jackie Lacey’s office has only charged one officer for the use of deadly force in the line of duty since she took office in 2012.
“They’re very familiar with us. Jackie Lacey is more than familiar with who I am. I expected them to ignore us, for us to go back and for us to go back and have our own meeting on the sidewalk,” said Abdullah. “The images of my children flashed before me. I remember these words in my mind saying: Is this going to be how I’m going to go out? I hadn’t fully processed what it did until afterwards.”
Their claims include negligence, civil rights violations, assault and battery and intention infliction of emotional distress.
During a candidate debate forum this January, protesters shouted down Jackie Lacey as she spoke about her record in office. Security ejected several people from the forum and the conversation was drowned out by jeers.
Jackie Lacey’s challenger, former San Francisco DA George Gascón, announced his candidacy last year after a public campaign coordinated by a coalition of criminal reform activists who encouraged him to challenge Lacey.
The Laceys’ attorney Jeffrey Zinder blasted the group’s lawsuit as politically motivated.
“This lawsuit was filed two weeks before an election and not at any time in the last seven months because it is being put forward for transparently political purposes. If there was merit in this lawsuit or if it was being offered sincerely, it would have been filed at some point prior to today,” Zinder said in a statement.
Douglas rejected Zinder’s explanation for his clients’ lawsuit.
“I am a civil rights lawyer on one level. But on a more personal level I am a personal injury lawyer. These three proud people are activists on one level, but on a more human level each of them are people.”