Police Offer Very Different Account Of Protest Incident GOPer Blamed On ‘Mob’

Lauren Victoria Burke/FR132934 AP
Views

LATE UPDATE Feb. 17, 9:21 a.m.: After this story was published, Huntington Beach Police Information Officer Jennifer Marlatt amended her earlier statement, clarifying that Rohrabacher’s staffer was later transferred to the hospital where injuries were discovered.

The female employee stated she did strike her head and other parts of her body during the fall. She declined to be transported by paramedics, but she was transported to the hospital by her friend. This was written in the report. It was unknown what injuries the female sustained at the time of the report. I’ve been advised after going to the hospital, injuries were discovered.

Original story below:

Rep. Dan Rohrabacher (R-CA) and California police provided starkly different accounts of an altercation between a staffer and demonstrator at one of his district offices, with the GOP lawmaker charging that a “violent” assault occurred and police describing the incident as an honest mistake.

Rohrabacher’s office alleged that a demonstrator intentionally shoved an elderly staffer to the ground, knocking her unconscious, while police said she declined to be taken to the hospital and that no injuries were reported at all.

This much is clear: Protesters with a group called Indivisible Orange County turned up at Rohrabacher’s Huntington Beach office to deliver Valentine’s Day cards urging him to hold a town hall. Finding the door locked, they shoved the cards underneath it. The 2-year-old daughter of one of the protesters was attempting to add one to the pile when a staffer abruptly opened the door, hitting the child in the head. The staffer, 71-year-old district director Kathleen Staunton, fell in the ensuing commotion as another demonstrator tried to keep the office door open.

The accounts then diverge wildly.

Rohrabacher’s office released a florid statement accusing a “mob” of “holier-than-thou obstructionists” of committing an “outrageous assault” on Staunton. The statement claims she was “knocked unconscious,” “violently” attacked, and repeatedly mentions that she was hospitalized.

Officer Jennifer Marlatt of the Huntington Beach police department characterized the incident as an accident, and denied that she was transported to the hospital.

According to Marlatt, after the door swung open, hitting the 2-year-old “by accident,” protesters started yelling, “’You just hit a child.’ The staff member got scared and attempted to closed the door, but she was unable to as one of the other protesters was trying to keep it open so they could talk to her. As he pulled the door open, the staff member fell down.”

“The staff member who fell fainted while talking to police and paramedics were called. She declined to be transported,” Marlatt continued. “No injuries were reported and the woman who had the child left the location before police arrived and did not believe her child had been hurt.”

Indivisible OC released a statement similarly describing the altercation as an accident.

These discrepancies between lawmaker and police accounts of constituent events have cropped up before. Earlier this month, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) told the press he required a police escort when departing from a town hall because the “deteriorating” situation caused by the crowd outside posed a risk to his safety. Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn clarified to the Sacramento Bee this week that McClintock was never in danger, and that the event went “very well.”

“The people gathered weren’t causing problems,” Hahn said.

In Orange County, local newspapers went with Rohrabacher’s framing, publishing dramatic headlines like “Activists’ Visit To Dana Rohrabacher’s Office Ends With 2-Year-Old Hit By Door, 71-Year-Old Hospitalized” (Orange County Register) and “Rohrabacher Staffer, 71, Knocked Unconscious By Protesters Delivering Cards” (KCBS).

Asked about the police denying that Staunton was taken to the hospital, Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs told TPM in an email that she was “hospitalized that very evening and released.”

“The man who wrenched the door from Kathleen as she was attempting to close it, causing her to fall and render her unconscious, was engaged in an attempt at forced entry,” he continued, again suggesting that Staunton was immediately knocked unconscious by the force of her fall, which police denied. “Legal issues are by no means resolved.”

In a follow-up email, Grubbs said it was his “understanding” that Staunton was taken to a Kaiser-affiliated hospital in Irvine by Huntington Beach paramedics.

The press office at Kaiser Permanente Orange County–Irvine Medical Center did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK