District Attorney Jackie Lacey may find herself in court in the coming months. But unlike the many times she has appeared as a prosecutor, the incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney will play the role of defendant. This week on Oct. 20, Lacey was sued by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles members for an incident in March, when the prosecutor’s husband pointed a gun at activists on the stoop of their Granada Hill’s home. The lawsuit is another chapter in an increasingly contentious fight for her job against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, Dahlia Ferlito and Justin Marks brought the complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging civil rights violations, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The suit accuses Lacey’s Husband, David Lacey, of “outrageously brazen and recklessly negligent use of a registered firearm…against innocent protesters who were lawfully visiting their home.” The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Lacey’s attorney, Jeffrey Zinder, characterized the suit as meritless and politically opportunistic. “This lawsuit was filed two weeks before an election and not at any time in the last seven months because it is being put forward for transparently political purposes,” he said in a statement. “If there was merit in this lawsuit or if it was being offered sincerely, it would have been filed at some point prior to today.”
Abdullah is chairwoman of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles and a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. She and other demonstrators went to the home where Lacey and her husband David live on March 2, seeking to find out why she had allegedly not fulfilled a promise to meet with them to discuss issues of community concern.
In a viral video of the incident, Abdullah rings Lacey’s doorbell early in the morning. Lacey’s husband opens the door with a handgun pointed at the activist, telling her, “Get off my porch or I will shoot you.” Hours later, Lacey apologized on behalf of her husband, saying that he had responded “in fear” but that he was “profoundly sorry.”
“The plaintiffs … believe that Jackie Lacey aided and abetted [David] Lacey’s decision to cock, load and then point the handgun directly at Dr. Abdullah’s chest and at Ms. Ferlito’s and Mr. Marks’ bodies,” the suit states. “The plaintiffs were unarmed and had done nothing to justify this use of deadly force against them.”
On Aug. 4, David Lacey was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault with a firearm for the incident. The case is being prosecuted by the California Department of Justice to avoid conflicts of interest. David Lacey previously worked as an investigative auditor in the District Attorney’s office.
The encounter between David Lacey and the activists ricocheted online only one day before the March 3 California Primary in which Lacey unsuccessfully avoided a run-off against self-styled progressive prosecutor George Gacón. Lacey has found herself increasing embattled since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Gascón’s campaign has picked up support as Lacey has lost high-profile endorsements.