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After Confrontation on Street : Mayor of Pomona May Face Charges

August 30, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — The district attorney's office is considering whether to file criminal charges against Mayor Donna Smith for allegedly using a shotgun two weeks ago to threaten an 18-year-old college student who had parked his car in front of Smith's south Pomona home.

Eric Johnson, a sophomore at Cal Poly Pomona, said he told police that Smith, shouting obscenities and toting a shotgun, accused him of buying drugs about 11 p.m. on Aug. 15 as he dropped off a friend who was visiting one of Smith's neighbors.

Johnson said that he has never used drugs and has no police record. "I saw the two barrels. I think if she would have fired, it would have come my way."

Smith, who has complained frequently about drug trafficking in her neighborhood, said that "some allegations" had been made against her but refused to elaborate on the incident.

"There are always two sides to every story," she said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace Beason said she received a police report Aug. 26 but would have to interview Smith and Johnson before deciding whether to file criminal charges. Beason said a determination would be made this week.

"The central issue is whether or not she was holding the gun for her own self-defense, for her own protection," said Beason, who works in the special investigation division in Los Angeles. "That's what it really boils down to."

Under the state Penal Code, brandishing a firearm in a "rude, angry or threatening manner" is a misdemeanor punishable by three to six months in the county jail, or imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $500, Beason said.

Johnson, a 6-foot-2 former offensive tackle from Pomona High School, said that he and a friend, Tyrone Horn, drove to the 1500 block of Palomares Street Aug. 15 after leaving the Claremont cafeteria where they both work as busboys.

Horn, eager to visit his girlfriend, jumped out of the car, Johnson said. Saying he would catch up in a moment, Johnson found a parking spot two houses away, directly in front of Smith's home.

As he got out of his orange Mazda, Johnson said he saw Smith standing about 25 feet away with a double-barreled rifle pointed at him.

"That's when she started her rampage," Johnson said. "I was mad, but I was also getting scared."

Offered to Move Car

Johnson, who said he did not recognize Smith as the mayor, said he offered to move his car. When Smith asked him for his license plate number, Johnson said he gave it to her. Then, Horn came back from the house to see what was going on, Johnson said.

"I said, 'Dude, she just pulled a gun on me.' " Johnson recalled.

The two got in the car and drove to the Pomona police station to report the incident, he said. Once there, however, Johnson said he decided not to press charges.

"I live in a neighborhood where there's a drug problem," said the north Pomona resident. "I could sympathize with someone being mad and angry about that going on in their neighborhood."

Began to Change Mind

But over the next several days, Johnson said he began to change his mind.

"These days, shooting people on the freeways and stuff, you don't know," he said. "If she got away with it this time, what's to stop her from doing it again?"

While contemplating the incident, Johnson said he also learned that the woman he saw with the gun was Pomona's mayor.

"That made me angry," he said. "She's a top city official. It seems like she would have enough sense not to take the law into her own hands. But it doesn't matter if it's a bum off the street or the President, you just don't go out and pull a shotgun on people."

He returned to the police station Aug. 19 and said he wanted to press charges. Johnson, who is black, also filed a complaint with the Pomona Valley branch of the NAACP.

'Stereotyping Me'

"I think she was stereotyping me," he said. "She assumed I was up to no good. But there are those of us who are going to college and trying to help the ones who are doing wrong."

Smith, 33, was elected mayor in April after serving two years on the City Council. A persistent spokeswoman for the need to crack down on drug dealing, Smith expressed her frustrations over drug problems in her neighborhood during a February mayoral debate.

The drug dealers "have a gun," she said. "My husband brought home a shotgun. They know we have one now, too. And we're moving them on by standing up to them."

Drug-Related Arrests

Pomona police would not comment on the incident, release the complaint filed by Johnson or say whether he had a criminal record.

Lt. Ernie Allsup, head of the detective bureau, said an apartment complex located within a block of the mayor's home has been the site of numerous drug-related arrests in the last year.

Johnson, a telecommunications major, said he made the decision to press charges on his own.

"I don't want to destroy nobody," he said. "I don't want her locked up and the key thrown away. But I would like to see some kind of punishment. She's a citizen just like anybody else."

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