LOS ANGELES — The husband of Los Angeles County's district attorney pulled a gun on Black Lives Matter protesters, telling them to back off, during a tense, crack-of-dawn demonstration Monday outside the prosecutor's home.
Protesters knocked on the front door of L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey at 5:40 a.m. PT when her husband, David Lacey, opened up and pointed a weapon, according to Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State Los Angeles, and protest organizer Justin Marks.
"We heard the gun cocking, and I thought I was being paranoid," Abdullah told NBC News. "But then he opened the door, leading with the gun. He saw me and lowered it, pointing it at my chest."
Marks said he too heard the weapon being locked into firing position on the other side of the door, at Lacey's home in the Granada Hills neighborhood of northwest L.A.
"I thought it was someone dropping keys and Melina said, 'Well that doesn't sound good,'" Marks said. "There was no hello, no face, just a gun pointing out."
Hours later, a visibly shaken Lacey told reporters at the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. that she and her husband were the only people inside their house — and they were justifiably afraid when a large group arrived before the sun was up.
“This morning my husband and I were at home asleep when we began to hear noise outside of our home. We immediately jumped out of bed and I called the police. I wasn’t sure what was going on and I let them know I thought there were protesters outside of my house," Lacey said.
"My husband David and I have been married for almost 40 years and while I was upstairs he ran downstairs. I could hear him talking to somebody. He came back up later and he said, 'There are protesters outside the house and I pulled my gun and I asked them to leave.'”
Organizers who were there to protest the D.A. office's handling of certain cases said the home is outfitted with security cameras and anyone inside could have easily seen the 30 protesters outside.
"I said: 'Jackie Lacey has promised us a community meeting. We're having it now. Could you please ask her to come out front?'" said Abdullah, who tweeted video of the early morning confrontation.
The armed man then ordered protesters to get off his porch, witnesses said.
"We don't know how crazy he is, we didn't know if he'd actually shoot me so we did" back up, Abdullah said. "I’m a mother of three kids, and I really don’t want to get shot."
A Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman confirmed there was a call for service to the block of Lacey's listed address at 5:40 a.m. on Monday Lacey left her home for work at about 7:41 a.m., protesters said.
"His response was in fear and now that he realizes what happened, he wanted for me to say to the protesters, the person he showed the gun to, that he was sorry, that he's profoundly sorry, that he meant no one any harm," Lacey told reporters.
"That it was just him and I in that house and we really didn't know what was about to happen. I too am sorry if anybody was harmed. It was never my intent to harm any protester. I just want to live in peace and do my job."
Her office said the LAPD will investigate the incident and share findings with an independent prosecutors, most likely the California Attorney General’s Office.
The protest comes a day before the California primaries, when Lacey seeks re-election for the post she first won in 2012. Her top challengers on Tuesday are former San Francisco DA and one-time LAPD Assistant Chief George Gascon and one-time federal public defender Rachel Rossi.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the top two finishers advance to a runoff in November.
Lacey, L.A. County's first black district attorney who is running for re-election, has been the target of regular protests, usually in front of the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A., over the office's handling of high-profile cases.
The office did not prosecute police officers who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Ezell Ford, in 2014. Critics have also accused Lacey of moving too slowly against Democratic Party donor Ed Buck, who is now being prosecuted by federal authorities for allegedly supplying illegal drugs that led to the deaths of two black men.
Andrew Blankstein reported from Los Angeles, and David K. Li and Mohammed Syed from New York.