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Pomona Mayor Not Charged in Gun Incident

September 10, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — Citing a lack of evidence, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed against Mayor Donna Smith for allegedly using a shotgun last month to threaten an 18-year-old college student who had parked his car in front of Smith's south Pomona home.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace Beason said the case boiled down to Smith's version of events against that of Eric Johnson, a Cal Poly Pomona sophomore who said the mayor pointed a gun at him and accused him of buying drugs about 11 p.m. Aug. 15 as he dropped off a friend in the 1500 block of Palomares Street.

"She says the gun was pointed at the ground. He says it was pointed at him in a threatening manner," said Beason, who works in the district attorney's Special Investigation Division in Los Angeles. "There wasn't sufficient evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty."

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.

Smith, who has complained frequently about gang activity and drug trafficking in her neighborhood, said Wednesday that she believed Johnson might have come to harm her. She said she walked out of the house, holding an unloaded shotgun at her side, and told him to go away.

"In my neighborhood at 11:30 at night, you don't find Sunday school teachers looking my house over," Smith said in her first public comment about the incident. "I grabbed our unloaded shotgun as a deterrent, to protect myself. That was obviously a mistake, and I'm sorry for my actions."

Johnson, who said he has never used drugs and has no police record, called the investigation a "cover-up."

"She admitted that she cussed me out with a shotgun," Johnson said. "It's like 'So what? I made a mistake, but I'm not going to pay for it.' "

Johnson, who is black, filed a complaint with the Pomona Valley branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People after the incident. NAACP officials expressed disappointment over Beason's decision.

"On the question of whose word is it--his word or her word--I think a jury should decide," said Harold Webb, president of the organization. "If it had been a black youth with a gun against a white lady, I think charges would have been brought against the person and they would have had to answer in court."

Johnson, who filed a report with Pomona police Aug. 19, said he and a friend, Tyrone Horn, drove to Palomares Street on Aug. 15 after leaving the Claremont cafeteria where they both work as busboys.

Horn, eager to visit his girlfriend, jumped out of the car first, Johnson said. After finding a parking place two houses away, Johnson got out of the car to catch up with Horn.

It was then, Johnson said, that he looked up and saw Smith standing about 25 feet away, shouting obscenities and pointing a rifle at him.

Smith, however, said she believed that Johnson might have been connected with a group of gang members who, 10 days before the incident, had verbally threatened her in front of her house.

"For almost three years, my family and my neighborhood have been plagued by drug pushers, gangs and gunfire," she said. "Drug dealers and users park in front of our homes playing loud music, trashing our street and sometimes fighting.

"We've put up with gang shoot-outs, two murders and shots being fired on a regular basis," Smith added. "My neighbors and I have the right to be safe in our homes and on our street. My three sons also deserve to grow up in a safe neighborhood."

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