Torrance Police Officers Plead Not Guilty to Charges From On-Duty Killing

One current officer, one former officer deny allegations of voluntary manslaughter in the 2018 shooting of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, who was in a stolen car when police said he reached toward an air rifle

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One current Torrance Police Department officer and one former officer pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the on-duty killing of a man in 2018 that was previously ruled a case of lawful self defense by the LA County District Attorney's Office.

"I'm looking forward to this verdict and seeing these criminal charges through," said Sherlyn Haynes, the mother of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell, who was killed by the officers.

The initial decision to clear officers Matthew Concannon and Anthony Chavez of legal wrongdoing was made in October, 2019 under the previous elected District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, and the new charges were brought by current DA George Gascón, who was elected to office in 2020 on promises he would reopen a number of police shooting cases, including this one.

Mitchell, 23, was shot to death by the officers during a traffic stop in a parking lot in Torrance in December 2018, after the car he was driving was reported stolen.

The Torrance Police Department said Mitchell had -- what turned out to be -- an air rifle with the stock removed leaning against the front of the driver's seat of the car when officers approached, and the Department said officers opened fire when Mitchell allegedly reached toward the air rifle.

"I question whether the officers were able to see the gun before the shooting," DA Gascón told reporters Monday.

"We know that even the prior review indicated that there was no evidence that he was reaching for a gun."

He declined to detail whether any new evidence or information had been found during his reconsideration of the case, but said even before he took office, he had questions about what was, and was not, seen on the police video.

The Torrance Police Department said in a statement news of the indictment "comes at a shock" considering the case had previously been closed.

In court Monday Concannon's attorney said he was still working as a Torrance Police officer but was placed on administrative leave after learning of the criminal charge.

Specially appointed prosecutor Lawrence Middleton successfully urged the court to require both men to post $100,000 bonds before being allowed to leave the building.

When the I-Team first reported on the case in 2019 Mitchell's mother Sherlyn Haynes said she didn't believe the official account, especially after Torrance released selected clips of the officers' body worn video that showed Mitchell appeared to be complying with directions.

"The video shows to me that my son was no threat to them at all, my son was polite, and he was doing exactly what they told him to do," Haynes said.

The LA Times reported in 2021 that the officers accused in the Mitchell killing were among more than a dozen Torrance officers suspected of exchanging racist and homophobic text messages while on duty.

The California Attorney General's Office announced it opened an investigation into the practices of Torrance police but no findings have been shared to date.

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