Newly released body camera video from protests in Los Angeles this summer shows L.A. police officers yank a large protest sign from the hands of a man in a Hollywood intersection, shove him backward as he puts his hands up, then shoot him in the groin with a projectile at close range.
Ben Montemayor, a 28-year-old filmmaker, suffered serious injuries to his testicles as a result and was rushed into emergency surgery, he told The Times in the days that followed.
The video raises new questions about the LAPD’s tactics during the summer’s tumultuous protests, particularly in regard to their use of 40-millimeter projectiles — which, by policy, are not meant to be used on individuals for “mere noncompliance.”
“In some ways, it’s even worse than we thought,” said Dan Stormer, one of Montemayor’s attorneys. “It’s not often you see something like this that is so cut and dried, but it’s pretty brutal.”
The LAPD launched an investigation last month into Montemayor’s shooting, citing a June 11 article in The Times about Montemayor and other protesters who were injured by police during several days of demonstrations and unrest in late May and early June. They released the video Friday.
Montemayor was injured as groups of officers in riot gear moved to establish skirmish lines and take control of the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Avenue about 2:40 p.m. June 2.
Officers on police radios can be heard in the video voicing concern about rocks and bottles being thrown at officers, but Montemayor does not appear to pose any threat.
Instead, Montemayor and a woman are seen on each side of a large white sign that is covered in protest messages — including a call to defund police and another to protect local communities. They are standing in the middle of a crosswalk.
As an officer grabs the woman, she drops her end of the sign before moving off-camera. At the same time, an officer rushes toward Montemayor as he backs away, according to the video. The officer rips the sign from Montemayor’s right hand as Montemayor puts his hands up in the video. Another officer is then seen shoving Montemayor back.
As Montemayor begins to slowly move forward again — he said in a later interview that he was going to help his friend, who had been thrown to the ground — a third officer steps forward and shoots him with a 40-mm projectile from what looks to be about five feet away.
Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, said Montemayor then left the scene, and has declined to answer questions from police since, referring them instead to his attorneys.
The LAPD’s investigation into the incident is still in its early stages, Spell said, and no determinations have been made as to the appropriateness of the officers’ actions.
LAPD policy requires such projectile weapons to be used only on individuals who present a clear and immediate threat, and who are specifically targeted and at least five feet away. Officers are not to use the weapons in response to verbal threats or “mere noncompliance.”
After he was shot, Montemayor said, one of his testicles swelled to twice its usual size, and he was rushed into emergency surgery to preserve his ability to father children.
He has said he intends to file a lawsuit against the LAPD. On Saturday, he referred questions about the video to Stormer.
Stormer said Montemayor has filed a notice of claim with the city, a necessary step toward filing suit. He said Montemayor was wise not to speak with internal affairs investigators because LAPD investigations of its own officers “are a complete farce.”
“They’re taking evidence and conducting an investigation to protect themselves from the lawsuit that is coming,” Stormer said.
The LAPD will have plenty of opportunity to hear from Montemayor during litigation, but it won’t change the fact that the officers’ treatment of him, as captured in the video, was “a brutal assault,” Stormer said.
Already, the LAPD faces a large lawsuit from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and other activist groups and protesters who allege that officers inappropriately used batons and projectile weapons to quell protests — violating people’s constitutional rights and injuring many in the process. That lawsuit seeks class status for the protesters and an injunction that would preclude the LAPD from using such weapons against protesters in the future.
Carol Sobel, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the larger case, said the LAPD’s use of 40-mm projectiles like the one that struck Montemayor is a major concern in the litigation, because such weapons are not designed to disperse protesters but to “incapacitate” people.
The video in Montemayor’s case is the latest to be released by the department.
In July, the department released video of a protester being shot in the head with a projectile as he stood with his hands up in a street May 30. Last month the department released video of several clashes between officers and protesters, including one in which a protester appears to kick an officer, then get shot in the groin with a projectile.
Other video shows an officer get pulled into a crowd by the neck, and a group of officers then start swinging their batons into the crowd aggressively.
Several reviews of the LAPD’s handling of the protests are pending.