By KENDRA SITTON | La Mesa Courier
Forty-six days after La Mesa erupted in violence after what started as peaceful protests, La Mesa city officials have moved forward with a plan to host a town hall about the day and the city’s response.
On July 14, the City Council unanimously voted in favor of directing staff to find a virtual platform that fits the needs of the event as well as a date. Those recommendations will be voted on at the next City Council meeting on July 28.
By that time, the official investigation into the bean bag shooting of Leslie Furcron that left the grandmother blinded in one eye will be over since Chief Walt Vasquez has 60 days to complete the investigation.
Vasquez, along with other city officials, will be facing tough questions at the town hall. People who gave public comments at the City Council meeting showed the range of what they may be asked – from whether the FBI knew about people being paid to riot to why officer who shot Furcron is still employed and why his name has not been released.
Members of the public who sent comments brought up other issues with how the town will be run. Many advocated for hosting the town hall outside at a park with social distancing and masks enforced so that officials and civilians could build better rapport during the session. However, the City Council feared people would be too tempted to take off their masks in order to speak at a microphone.
People also spoke out against the town hall being held in a way where people are forced to send questions ahead of time that would then be pre-selected. They wanted a live option so people would be uncensored as well as react to new information. City Staff were told to find a platform that best suited that format.
Speakers may also open the town hall to explain some of the actions already taken and why that happened. In particular, Council member Akilah Weber said someone should explain what caused investigation and response to be perceived by so many as slower compared to other cities.
“There are a lot of questions about why things move as slowly as they do in La Mesa when it comes to issues like this,” Weber said. “I know we’re bound legally by some things because of the type of city that we are.”
She requested someone spend several minutes explaining those restraints set by California state law, the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights and La Mesa being a charter city.
The town hall may help people air their grievances, make recommendations and ask questions, it is unclear how much information will be available.
“Although the council can’t give very much information right now because we’re still gathering it, we can still listen to the concerns and recommendations of our residents,” Weber said.
The investigation Vasquez promised into Furcron’s injury and the events on May 30 should be over, but how much of that investigation, including the name of the officer who shot Furcron, will be made public is unknown. Some public commenters asked Vasquez to not hide behind investigations so the town hall can bring answers to the community, not just empty statements.
— Reach contributing editor Kendra Sitton at Kendra@sdnews.com.