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‘Clearly a Murder Case’: A Previous DA Failed to Prosecute, Now Two California Cops Are Indicted for Shooting of Black Man Months After Texts Mocking His Death Were Exposed

Two police officers were indicted for the 2018 fatal shooting of a Black man in Torrance, California.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the indictment on April 17 after his predecessor declined to press charges against the officers.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a grand jury indicted Anthony Chavez and Matthew Concannon for voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Christopher DeAndre Mitchell on Dec. 9, 2018. The indictment was reached on March 24 and unsealed on April 17.

Christopher DeAndre Mitchel
Christopher DeAndre Mitchel was killed by two Torrance Police Department officers on Dec. 9, 2018, in Torrance, California. (Photo: Fox 11 Los Angeles/ YouTube screenshot)

Mitchell was killed after Chavez and Concannon approached him at approximately 7:58 p.m. as he sat in an alleged stolen Honda in the parking lot of Ralph’s grocery store at 1770 West Carson Street. The two officers parked their police cruiser behind Mitchell and exited before yelling, “Police!”

Related: I Had to. He Was Going to Shoot Us’: New Video of 2018 Chicago Police Shooting Shows Cops Lied About Legally Armed Black Man Pulling Gun on Them

Video of the stop shows Mitchell complying with the officers and placing his hands on the steering wheel. The officers ordered Mitchell to get out of the car repeatedly, but he refused. The officers then approached the vehicle and opened fire and killed Mitchell, later claiming that he reached toward his lap for a gun.

The officers later claimed they found a “break barrel air rifle” between Mitchell’s legs.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to press charges against Chavez and Concannon, claiming that they acted in self-defense.

“Based on Mitchell’s failure to follow the officers’ directions, his continued efforts to conceal the object in his lap, the physical appearance of the object, and the movement of his hands toward the object,” wrote the prosecutor in 2019. “It was reasonable for the officers to believe that the object was a firearm and to respond with deadly force.”

Gascón reopened the case to examine the officers’ use of force after being elected in 2020 and determined there was no evidence Mitchell reached for a gun.

“From my own personal review, I question whether the officers were able to see the gun before the shooting,” Gascón said at a press conference. “We know even the prior review indicated that there was no evidence he was reaching for a gun.”

Both officers were also connected to a text message scandal in which multiple officers from the Torrance Police Department exchanged racist and vile texts, some of them following the protests over Mitchell’s killing. One officer joked about cleaning their gun on the protesters.

“Gun cleaning Party at my house when they release my name??” wrote one police officer.

“Let’s all just post in your yard with lawn chairs in a [firing] squad,” replied another cop.

Text messages also revealed Torrance Police Department officers joking about urinating on a young Black girl they referred to as the N-word and bragging about beating another Black woman and giving her a “shiner” on her face.

The messages also joked about killing Black men and included a picture of a teddy bear being lynched at police headquarters. Mitchell’s family was also referred to as the N-word in text messages.

Special prosecutor Lawrence Middleton has not publicly spoken about the case, and grand jury transcripts of the indictment hearing will remain sealed for a minimum of 10 days.

The bail for each killer was set at $100,000. Concannon and Chavez pleaded not guilty and if convicted, they face up to 11 years in prison. Chavez no longer works for the Torrance Police Department, and Concannon was placed on administrative leave following his indictment.

Tom Yu, Chavez’s attorney, said he will file a motion to dismiss the case, citing procedural violations by Middleton and insufficient evidence.

Lisa Houlé, Concannon’s attorney, released a statement accusing the progressive prosecutor of playing politics.

“There must be new evidence, but Mr. Gascón, through the special prosecutor, has repeatedly refused to provide it to us,” said Houlé. “Unless he can provide something new, this would appear to be a politically motivated and financially incentivized rank abuse of prosecutorial power.”

Black Lives Matter organizer Sheila Bates noted that the police officers opened fire within 12 seconds of approaching Mitchell in the vehicle and said he was murdered.

“This case is clearly a murder case,” said Bates. “And the text messaging scandal which included messages about Christopher and his family speaks volumes about the racist nature of the Torrance Police Department.”

The Torrence Police Department says they were “shocked” by the indictments.

“Considering the facts as we know them, including the previous determination (the officers) acted in lawful self-defense, the revelation of the indictment comes as a shock to the Torrance Police Department,” read the press release. “We acknowledge that due to the secret nature of Grand Jury proceedings, we are unaware of the entirety of the evidence presented to the Grand Jury, which led to the indictment.”

Gascón also released a statement saying that he hoped to get justice with the indictment for Mitchell’s family.

“We support his decision to do so and we are pleased that the grand jury returned the indictment,” he said. “While there is nothing that can be done to heal the pain for those who loved and cared for Christopher, I hope this provides them with a measure of justice.”

Sherilyn Haynes, Mitchell’s mother, responded to the indictment with a statement of her own.

“My soul is deeply hurt so bad. I miss my son, Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, so much,” said Haynes. “To everyone who lost their children by the hands of the police department, stand strong. Your time is coming next. I believe it. And let’s fight.”

She also said she was looking forward to the trial. “I’m looking forward to going to court and seeing Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez put in jail.”

Concannon’s and Chavez’s next court appearance is on May 15.

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