Pasadena Police Chief Reassigns Officers Involved in Violent Altadena Arrest from Gang Unit to Desk Duty

Published : Wednesday, March 7, 2018 | 11:52 AM

Ballew

[Editor's Note:  This story has been updated to correct two misstatements. Ballew was followed by the officers into the gas station, not pursued. He was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer, not for resisting arrest. We apologize for these errors, which have been corrected.]

City officials confirmed Wednesday morning that the two Pasadena police officers involved in the controversial and violent arrest of Christopher Ballew in November, 2017 have been reassigned from the Special Enforcement Section gang unit to desk duty.

The decision comes after weeks of protest by police watchdog and civil rights groups, which had demanded that Officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan be taken off street patrol duty pending the outcome of an internal police investigation into their actions during the Ballew arrest.

21-year-old Ballew suffered a broken fibula and head wounds during a traffic stop by Esparza and Lujan last Nov. 9 after the pair followed him into an Altadena gas station for driving a car with tinted windows and a missing front license plate.

The incident was captured on a cellphone video which became public in December and raised public outcry over the officers’ actions. Ballew was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer. The Los Angeles County District Attorney declined to file charges against him.

At the time, Chief Sanchez announced an investigation into the officers’ actions and said the pair would remain on regular duty.

Groups such as the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police, the NAACP Pasadena branch, Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Police Violence, POP, Indivisible Alta-Pasadena, Neighbors Building A Better Altadena, CLUE, and over 500 petition signatories protested the Chief’s decision and demanded he place the two officers on desk duty.

On February 10, Altadena Town Council Chair Okorie Ezieme also weighed in with a strongly worded letter to Pasadena officials requesting that Esparza and Lujan not be allowed to patrol anywhere inside Altadena.

At Monday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Councilmember Tyron Hampton also spoke about the status of the two officers.

Hampton referred to his understanding that officers Lujan and Esparza were assigned to patrol the crowd at the recent Black History Parade.

“That,” Hampton said, “was a horrible decision.”

There has been no word from city officials as to what prompted Wednesday’s reassignment order.

 

 

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