Melina Abdullah

Melina Abdullah gives a speech with a sign-language translator in front of City Hall during the “Jackie Lacey Must Go” weekly demonstrations on July 1.

In the early hours of the morning on March 2, Black Lives Matter demonstrators went to LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s home to have a community meeting that she had promised. 

Upon ringing the doorbell, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, Melina Abdullah, was met with the district attorney’s husband, David Lacey, pointing a gun at her chest saying, “I will shoot you.”

On August 3, Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed charges against David in Los Angeles County Superior Court for three counts of assault with a firearm. Abdullah said she is pleasantly surprised. 

“I’m encouraged that charges were filed,” Abdullah said. “I think that we have so little faith in these kinds of interlocking parts of the criminal justice system that we thought that he would get away with it completely.” 

Jackie’s refusal to “prosecute killer cops” is the reason Black Lives Matter LA protests outside her office every Wednesday, the organization says. During Jackie’s time as district attorney, 618 deaths have happened in the hands of police, Abdullah said.

The incident was recorded on a video that went viral on Twitter. Abdullah, who is also a professor and former chair of Pan-African studies at California State University, LA, tweeted the video from her account because she thought it was important to share what had happened with the rest of the world.

“I’m positive that had it not been posted that no charges would’ve been filed against him,” Abdullah said. “It had to go to social media in order for people to see what happened.”

When Abdullah’s daughters saw the incident on social media, they were terrified, she said, adding that they both had to take a break from school afterward.

“It’s a traumatic experience,” she said. “When I think about it, I can still feel that energy of the gun. I can feel where it was pointed to on my chest.”

That day after the confrontation, Jackie had an emotional press conference to discuss the incident, expressing how she had felt unfairly targeted by the protesters.

Jackie issued a personal statement to LA Downtown News through lawyer Samuel E. Tyre about the charges saying: “The events that took place earlier this year have caused my family immense pain. My husband acted in fear for my safety after we were subjected to months of harassment that included a death threat no less than a week earlier. Protesters arrived at my house shortly after 5 am while I was upstairs. My husband felt that we were in danger and acted out of genuine concern for our well-being.”

In the statements provided by Tyre, he said that he and David “disagree entirely with their assessment” and will not comment on the facts of the case. 

“My client’s human instinct is forever and always to protect his wife and his family and to keep them safe from physical harm,” Tyre said in the statement.

Abdullah pointed out how she believes they are creating legal arguments as victims because Jackie is a lawyer herself. 

“She defends him the same way she defends the police who kill our people,” Abdullah said. “The way in which he threatened in real time those who are struggling for justice for those souls matches her disrespect and disregard for Black life, and I think everyone can see it.” 

The idea that Jackie felt threatened by the protesters is “absolutely ridiculous,” Abdullah said, noting that she is nonviolent and that she and Jackie have been in the same spaces together before. As for the death threat, Abdullah said that it was made by a mentally ill Long Beach man who has no affiliation with any protests or Black Lives Matter LA. 

“(David) came down the stairs, cocked his gun and pointed it at me,” Abdullah said. “Who is the victim in all of this is us. We are the victims. Only David Lacey had a gun.”

When the incident happened, she and the other protesters remained collected, the video shows. Abdullah pleasantly said “good morning” to David as he kept the gun pointed at her chest, threatening to shoot.

“I actually felt my spirit become calm,” Abdullah said. “I felt a shift almost when he pulled that gun. My spirit knew it had to sink into its calm rather than become agitated or fearful or angry.”

Even though at that moment she sunk into a space of calmness, she said in the back of her mind she saw flashes of her three children’s faces and thought to herself audibly, “Is this how I’m really gonna go out?”

After he closed the door, Abdullah said she and the other 30 demonstrators present were in complete shock and disbelief of what had happened. 

“It strengthened our resolve that we had to protest her,” Abdullah said. “Our only push was for her to prosecute the police who kill our people, and if she sees that as a threat, then it’s hugely problematic that she’s district attorney.”

Going to Jackie’s house was not the first step to their movements, Abdullah emphasized. The organizers started with community meetings, letters, petitions and conversations with Jackie to understand the barriers preventing her from prosecuting cops as early as 2014, Abdullah said. 

Jackie agreed to a meeting with Black Lives Matter and the Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBTQ advocacy caucus, before December 2019, Abdullah said. The organizers gave Jackie a grace period where months went by, but she never followed through.

The Black Lives Matter organizers, many of whom live in South Central LA, didn’t want to wake up early to take a bus to Jackie’s Granada Hills home, Abdullah said, but, “We had to go because our people keep being killed by police and she’s essentially giving it a green light by her refusal to prosecute.”

Abdullah said she hopes that the situation coming to light will cost Jackie the upcoming election, but her real hope is that she resigns on her own.