LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore apologized Monday for comments in which he conflated the looters who have vandalized businesses across L.A. with the Minneapolis officers responsible for the death of George Floyd.
"We didn't have protests last night, we had criminal acts," Moore said. "We didn't have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd, we had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers. And that is a strong statement, but I must say, but this civil unrest that we're in the midst of, we must turn a corner from people who are involved in violence."
His comments came in a news conference Monday afternoon in which he announced that nearly 700 people were arrested across the L.A. area Sunday for looting, vandalism and breaking curfew.
In the same news conference, which was held alongside Mayor Eric Garcetti, Moore later took the podium and walked back the comments. He also later released a statement:
"During a press conference earlier today, I misspoke when making a statement about those engaging in violent acts following the murder of Mr. George Floyd.
"While I did immediately correct myself, I recognize that my initial words were terribly offensive. Looting is wrong, but it is not the equivalent of murder and I did not mean to equate the two.
"I deeply regret and humbly apologize for my characterization.
"Let me be clear: the police officers involved were responsible for the death of Mr. George Floyd."
Moore has been chief of the department since 2018.
A Change.org petition demanding that Garcetti fire Moore for the controversial comments had garnered more than 4,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
And in a Tuesday morning virtual meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, a number of community members called for the firing of Moore.
"Chief Moore should be fired," one caller said. "And the Police Commission isn't an oversight board if you aren't actively pushing for this.
"He needs to be fired just for making those statements alone," another caller said.
On Tuesday evening, Garcetti addressed the situation, saying that he still has confidence in Moore.
"I've known this man's heart for decades," Garcetti said. "He was the person brought in after the Rampart scandal to clean up that station as a captain. When I heard him say what he said, I knew that he did not mean that, and I know that he corrected it right away."
"If I believed for a moment that the chief believes that in his heart, he would no longer be our chief of police," Garcetti added. "I can't say that any stronger."
Santa Monica's police chief Monday said that 95% of the over 400 people arrested Sunday for looting along the city's Third Street Promenade and setting nine fires were from out of town and had specifically come in to take advantage of police agencies stretched thin by the protests.
"So what we can glean from intelligence online is that there are opportunists who are tracking where peaceful protests are occurring, and they are then going to that city, knowing that resources will be tied up in ensuring First Amendment rights to free speech," Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud told reporters Monday. "They take advantage of that. And they loot and they perform criminal activity."
533 people were arrested in violent protests Saturday night in Beverly Hills and the Fairfax District. Another 75 were arrested in Long Beach Sunday.
On Monday, an estimated 150 people were arrested for looting, vandalism and curfew violations in Hollywood, and another 30 were arrested in Van Nuys.
Hundreds of National Guard troops have been deployed to the region for the first time since the 1992 Rodney King riots.
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