The charges further complicate a stiff reelection battle for Jackie Lacey (D), who is Los Angeles County’s first Black district attorney and the first woman to hold the job. Amid a national reckoning with racial injustice, Lacey has been assailed by protesters for declining to charge police officers in violent incidents and has recently lost the endorsements of several top California Democrats.
She criticized the criminal charges on Tuesday, arguing her husband was merely trying to protect her after she had received violent threats.
“The events that took place earlier this year have caused my family immense pain,” Lacey said in a statement to the Associated Press. “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.”
Samuel Tyre, an attorney representing David Lacey, told the Guardian he would be vindicated in court. “We disagree entirely with their assessment, but we have the utmost faith in the justice system, and we are confident that the correct result will be reached,” he said.
But Melina Abdullah, a Cal State L.A. professor who first tweeted out the video of Lacey holding the gun, argued he should have faced felony charges and said his actions against the unarmed protesters were too aggressive to blame on fear.
“I would think that if you’re afraid you would stay in the house and call the police because you were in fear,” Abdullah told the Los Angeles Times. “They weren’t in fear. They were agitated.”
The incident unfolded in the early morning hours of March 2, more than two months before George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis would reignite a nationwide Black Lives Matter movement demanding greater police accountability.
That morning, Abdullah had joined about 30 protesters who gathered at the Laceys’ house to demand a meeting, the professor told The Washington Post at the time. She said the top prosecutor had repeatedly declined to discuss the group’s concerns about her handling of police violence against people of color.
After Abdullah’s video of the encounter went viral, Jackie Lacey held an emotional news conference to apologize — but also to insist her family had been the victim of a ruthless campaign and the subject of serious threats.
“His response was in fear, and now that he realizes what happened, he wanted me to say to the protesters … that he was sorry, that’s he’s profoundly sorry,” Lacey said at the time, while noting that she had been “followed” and had “received threats.”
Police confirmed to the Times that Lacey had received multiple threats, but said just one was serious enough to forward to an outside agency, which determined the suspect didn’t intend to carry out any violence.
The day after the incident, Lacey narrowly missed winning the Democratic primary outright, nabbing 48.65 percent of the vote. Her top challenger, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, received 28 percent.
But since she failed to tally 50 percent, the pair will face off in November — and in the wake of Floyd’s death, Lacey’s challenge has grown far steeper.
Gascón has seized on the demands of Black Lives Matter to promise deep changes to police accountability and has nabbed endorsements from major figures including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Ted Lieu of California, meanwhile, have recently withdrawn endorsements for Lacey, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti suggested “it may be” time for a new top prosecutor, the Times reported.
Demonstrations against Lacey have also grown in size this summer, with thousands marching outside her office and her home.