A State Assembly candidate says his opponent broke the law when he Photoshopped a gun into his hand and a hoodie onto his head for a campaign mailer whose message has come under fire from other politicians and community leaders.
"He took a hood, put it on my face, and put a gun in a fake hand, and he pushed it off as me," candidate Prophet Walker said of his opponent Mike Gipson. "Campaign laws forbid this type of thing."
The image of Walker's face was taken from a photo of him with a friend, and the mailer with it was sent to residents in the 64th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Carson and Compton, last week. Walker's campaign said it should have come with a disclaimer saying the image was altered.
On the mailer, the words "convicted felon" are stamped above Walker's head, while Gipson, a former police officer, is shown in uniform. The mailer asks which candidate will better protect voters.
"My daughter, who's nine years old, will live with this for the rest of her life," Walker said. "Her dad's never worn a hood with a gun in his hand ever, never held a gun to point or hurt anyone, period."
Walker admits he was convicted of assault and robbery at the age of 16 but says he has "paid every single debt" to society and wants to use what he's learned to serve his community. Walker turned his life around to counsel young people and work in construction.
"This is the same imagery that has been etched in our minds, that got Trayvon Martin killed, that sparked so much in Ferguson," Walker said.
Gipson has apologized for the imagery on the mailer in a statement, blaming the "over-the-top visuals" on a campaign volunteer and his own judgment.
He said in a statement posted to his website Friday that he let his emotions get the better of him and that his team didn't appropriately vet the ad, which he approved and which he said went to a "small" number of voters.
"In retrospect I realize that the volunteer’s graphic design elements went too far," Gipson said in the statement.
The district's congresswoman, Karen Bass, called the image "appalling" in a statement Friday.
Politicians and faith leaders renounced the mailer as an example of racial profiling at a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. in downtown LA.
"We call on Mike Gipson and all those who support him to denounce this repugnant behavior," Pastor Xavier Thompson, of the Southern Missionary Baptist Church, said at the rally.
Gipson spoke with NBC4 Monday afternoon. He pointed to mailers from those supporting Walker, that accused Gipson of not making child support payments, and that called him a deadbeat dad.
"I have apologized even in that statement in terms of this particular mailer, but I will also say this. I've been attacked repeated, over 31 times in this election, by my opponent and outside interests," Gipson said.
Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown doesn't think his mailer disqualifies him for the seat.
"I don't agree with the mailpieces all in all but at the day Mike Gipson is the one that can step in the job and do it today," Brown said.
The 64th Assembly District seat is open, with current holder Isadore Hall moving to the Senate next session.
Gipson and Walker's campaign to replace him was already negative before the mailer was sent out, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Voters will vote Tuesday to determine the winner of the race.
Ted Chen contributed to this report.