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LA County grand jury convened in probe of 2 Torrance officers who fatally shot Black man

Whittier Daily News logo Whittier Daily News 3/24/2023 Tony Saavedra, The Whittier Daily News, Calif.

Mar. 23—A Los Angeles County grand jury has convened in the fatal Torrance police shooting of a Black man sitting in a suspected stolen car in 2018.

The panel is considering potentially charging Officers Anthony Chavez and Matthew Concannon in the killing of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, a shooting that triggered months of protests by Black Lives Matter activists that spilled into Torrance City Council meetings.

Chavez and Concannon also are linked to racist and homophobic text messages sent among Torrance officers and under investigation by the state Attorney General's Office, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Former District Attorney Jackie Lacy previously found that the two officers acted legally and in self-defense in the Mitchell shooting. But the investigation was reopened by D.A. George Gascon and sent to special prosecutor Lawrence Middleton in 2021.

Gascon's office declined to comment Thursday, March 23, or even confirm the grand jury proceeding.

Chavez's attorney, Tom Yu, said Thursday that the shooting case was politically motivated and reopened by Gascon to fulfill a campaign promise.

"We look forward to defending Mr. Chavez if there are charges brought as a result of the grand jury proceeding," Yu said.

Mitchell, 23, was shot in the parking lot of a Carson Street supermarket in Old Torrance. Officers fired three times at Mitchell, who was behind the wheel of a car that had been reported stolen. Between his legs was what appeared to be a firearm, but was actually a modified air rifle, reports said.

As officers approached the car, they told Mitchell to keep his hands on the steering wheel, but he instead moved them toward his lap, according to the previous report by prosecutors who cleared police. Officers also told Mitchell to get out of the car, but he refused, the report said.

The report concluded: "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, it was reasonable for the officers to believe that the object was a firearm and to respond with deadly force."

However, Mitchell's mother, Sherlyn Haynes, has previously accused the officers of murdering her son. After watching video of the shooting, Mitchell's family disagreed with the police interpretation, saying Mitchell was cooperating with the officers' demands.

Just 12 seconds passed from the time Concannon activated his body-worn video camera as he opened Mitchell's car door to the time of the first shot.

This was not the first shooting for Concannon and Chavez.

Concannon was involved in the 2011 nonfatal shooting of Jeremiah Banks during a vehicle pursuit. Banks received a 15-year prison sentence after he was subsequently convicted on two counts of robbery and one count of felony evading, but also received a $100,000 settlement from the city after filing a lawsuit while incarcerated.

Chavez was one of five Torrance officers exonerated by the District Attorney's Office for their roles in the fatal 2017 shooting of a San Gabriel man shot 23 times in the wake of a high-speed pursuit.

(c)2023 The Whittier Daily News, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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