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Judge: LAPD Must Restrict Use Of Less Lethal Projectile Launchers

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Police Department will have to restrict its use of less-lethal projectile launchers against crowds at demonstrations, a federal judge ruled Monday.

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Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer wears a Axon Enterprise Inc. body camera at a protest during the 2020 Presidential election in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Joe Biden was on the threshold of winning the White House with narrow leads over President Donald Trump in several battleground states, yet the final outcome remained stalled by the painstaking work of counting ballots. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the order, U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall said there was an increase in reports of LAPD officers pushing, striking and firing less lethal weapons on crowds of protestors, including members of the media, without a dispersal order being given.

In the order, the judge said only officers who successfully completed training and met all annual qualifications requirements for the 40mm and 37mm projectile launchers could use them during public demonstrations; officers could only use the 40mm projectile launchers when a person is violently resisting arrest or poses and immediate threat of violence or physical harm, and the use should be preceded by a warning; officers could use the 37mm projectile launchers as a crowd control tool with prior approval from an incident commander and after a dispersal order has been issued or when immediate action is necessary to stop violence, ensure public safety or restore order.

The order also said officers could not use 37mm launchers against specific protestors unless absolutely necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury to the officer or others and should only be fired at the ground between 5 and 10 feet in front of the crowd. The judge also said the 40mm launcher must not be used to target the head, neck, face, eyes, kidneys, chest, groin or spine of a person.

Both the 37mm and the 40mm should only be fired at a distance of 5 feet or greater from another person, the order said, unless an officer or other person is attacked and there is a threat of imminent serious harm.

Marshall first restricted police use of the weapons last month and further ordered that officers must give a verbal command warning to disperse and give protesters a reasonable opportunity to comply before deploying the launchers except when an officer is attacked.

The order came on the same day a Los Angeles Lakers fan spoke for the first time about a lawsuit filed against the department and the city, claiming he lost his eye after officers shot him with a projectile.

"They were still shooting, so we still had to keep running," William Gonzalez said. "We made it like a block, yeah, and then we ran into CHP. Yeah, we made it to CHP, and they hold me right there and I went to the hospital."

Gonzalez's attorney said she spoke with LAPD Internal Affairs who said they have not found the incident on any of the city's cameras. 

A representative for the city said they had no comment on the pending legislation.

The new order, granting a Black Lives Matter Los Angeles request for a preliminary injunction, gives clear directives for use of the weapons at public demonstrations.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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