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SAN DIEGO —
A 38-year-old man accused of shooting a gun during an altercation with protesters outside San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s home pleaded not guilty Thursday to firearm-related charges.
Lonnie Crawford was charged in San Diego Superior Court with two felonies: firing a gun in a negligent manner and possessing a controlled substance — cocaine — while armed with a firearm, according to a criminal complaint.
The charges stem from an Aug. 30 incident. No one was hit by the gunfire.
If convicted, Crawford faces up to four years and eight months in prison. Crawford, who is free on $50,000 bail, appeared at his arraignment remotely via a video conferencing platform as a safeguard against the spread of COVID-19.
The shooting happened after a group of about 20 people staged a demonstration outside of Gloria’s home in Mission Hills to protest police activities targeting people living outdoors. Some demonstrators held signs that read, “End police terror on the houseless” and “Stop the sweeps.”
Some demonstrators also decried racial bias in policing and police brutality.
Prosecutors allege Crawford drove his pickup through the crowd then got into a verbal altercation with some of the protesters. Prosecutors say he then entered a nearby apartment, came out a short time later and fired at least one round into the air.
Deputy District Attorney Philippa Cunningham declined to lay out other details about the case outside of the courtroom.
Crawford’s attorney, Vik Monder, who also appeared in court remotely, suggested the case was one of self-defense but did not elaborate.
Racial and social justice activist Tasha Williamson, who was at the Aug. 30 protest, attended the arraignment with about eight supporters, some of whom were also at the protest.
Williamson has said previously that demonstrators were about to leave the area near the mayor’s home when a driver in a pickup sped down a street and swerved “from left to right” as if trying to hit protesters.
“If someone hadn’t shouted, ‘Look out,’ he would have struck us,” Williamson told the Union-Tribune at the time.
Williamson said that before the man fired the gun, he threatened to shoot demonstrators in the face. She said some demonstrators believed the man pointed the gun above their heads.
Outside the courtroom Thursday, Williamson said she thought Crawford’s bail should be set at higher amount, given the crimes he’s accused of committing.
“We have protesters and Black people who are having bails that are $500,000 and $1 million and $750,000,” she said. “This is outrageous.”
District Attorney Summer Stephan issued a statement after the arraignment.
“These felony charges reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s actions and the danger he posed to the protesters who were clearly victimized by his actions,” Stephan said. “I want to be clear that everyone’s right to protest peacefully must be safeguarded and anyone who harms that right through illegal conduct will face consequences.”
The District Attorney’s Office noted that the charges were the latest stemming from a protest. The office prosecuted two men who pleaded guilty to attacking Black Lives Matter protesters in Imperial Beach in June 2020.
Last month, the District Attorney’s Office charged a group of individuals prosecutors described as “antifa supporters,” a reference to anti-fascists. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to riot and other charges related to alleged assaults that unfolded during a rally organized by supporters of then-President Donald Trump and a counterprotest last January.
Experts believe the case marked the first time in the nation that conspiracy charges were lodged against alleged anti-fascists.
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com