Flanked by his family, attorneys and activists, Blake Anderson walked slowly, painfully across a courtyard in Leimert Park on Friday afternoon.
Days earlier, the 24-year-old was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in an incident that he and his legal team have called an excessive and unprovoked assault. Now, they said, they’re seeking justice.
“The police just brutally attacked me for no reason,” Anderson said. “So I asked them, ‘What did I do? What did I do?’ As I asked again, what did I do, they just slam my head and throw punches.”
Wearing a gray shirt and mask, Anderson rose stiffly to his feet to briefly address a crowd of reporters. Before sitting back down, he lifted up a pair of sunglasses to reveal a black patch over his right eye, which he said he will lose after a recovering injury was aggravated in the violent arrest.
Anderson’s attorneys plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department but did not say when because they are gathering information.
The Sheriff’s Department has said little about the incident and nothing on what led deputies to make the arrest Sunday.
In a news release Wednesday, the department said deputies “were involved in a use of force incident with an armed suspect” in Inglewood.
The department, however, has not said whether Anderson was wanted in connection with any crime, whether there was a warrant for his arrest, or shared any details on why deputies moved in. He was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition, being a felon in possession of a loaded and concealed firearm and assault on a peace officer with a firearm, the department said.
According to his attorneys, Anderson was working as a security guard at the Good Batch Hookah Lounge in Inglewood when he was blindsided by the deputies.
The incident was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video that was later tweeted by Anderson’s attorney Ben Crump.
The footage shows two sheriff’s deputies grappling with Anderson. One deputy strikes Anderson in the head with an object while another deputy has him in a headlock from behind, and bystanders yell at the deputies as they wrestle him to the ground.
“Hey, he’s security here,” one person says. “He works here. He works here.”
“There is no weapon,” another person says.
One of the deputies unholsters his handgun and points it at Anderson’s head while the lawmen have him pinned to the ground. The deputy holsters the pistol a few seconds later.
Another person yells out as the deputy points the handgun at Anderson: “Blake, Blake, no Blake. … Blake, don’t resist, Blake. No, no, no. Come on. Do what you gotta do, Blake. Come on. … Don’t fight back.”
A deputy punches Anderson in the head and slams his head into the pavement as the person who was telling him not to resist continues pleading.
The department described Anderson’s injuries as “minor,” in contrast to his and his attorneys’ accounts.
“It should be noted [that] suspect Anderson had a previous traumatic injury which he sustained in an unrelated incident prior to contact with deputies,” according to the department.
In an online fundraiser for Anderson’s medical and legal expenses, his family said that he had been recovering from a ruptured right eye and that his sight had shown signs of returning.
That progress was erased when deputies slammed his head into a window and into the ground during the arrest, his attorneys said.
In addition to the damage to his eye, Anderson suffered injuries including a dislocated shoulder and hematomas — pooling of blood outside the blood vessel — on his head, his family said.
In an update to its initial statement, the Sheriff’s Department said Anderson “was on active parole” when he was arrested and can’t legally own or possess a firearm.
The department also claimed that he was not a hookah lounge employee.
“They tried to sell the idea that somehow we blinded him and he was working,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a Wednesday news conference. “No, none of the above. That is how activists use social media to try to gain traction and just foment division and mistrust of law enforcement.”
Anderson was not a direct employee of the Inglewood business but was employed by a security company, said Jim DeSimone, another attorney representing Anderson.
“We don’t believe it’s true,” DeSimone said of Villanueva’s allegation that Anderson was not working as a security guard and was not legally allowed to carry a firearm. “We’re still investigating that but … our client had a reasonable belief that he was in lawful possession of that firearm and was given that firearm to do his job.”
For Crump, the deputies’ actions are part of “a pattern and practice” of deputies using excessive force against minorities.
“What we’re going to do is demand justice and accountability,” the attorney said. “Because if you can’t get accountability for what we saw on that videotape, what can Black people get accountability for against the Los Angeles [County] Sheriff’s Department?”
Villanueva has to speak to his deputies’ actions, Crump said.
“We can’t just have rogue officers attacking Black and brown people for no reason, no justification and not letting us know why are you violating our constitutional rights,” he said. “We’re going to stand up against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for Blake Anderson and say — we will not let you sweep this under the rug.”
In a statement, the Sheriff’s Department called the deputies’ initial contact with Anderson and their use of force “concerning,” and said the incident is under review.
“Depending on the outcome, proper administrative action will result,” the department said.
In the days following his arrest, Anderson said his life has been flung into uncertainty. His doctor has said he will lose his right eye, which will be replaced by a prosthetic.
He’s left questioning why deputies arrested him, what caused them to use such force and how he will be able to provide for himself and his family.
Anderson has a 5-year-old son, Jasiah, and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Leslie Macias, is due to give birth to their daughter soon.
“I’m not understanding what I’m going to be able to do as far as the rest of my life,” he said. “I just really pray and hope that this situation can come out the best for me and my family.”