LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California has learned that the state attorney general is taking over the investigation of a hit-and-run incident during which staff attorney Brendan Hamme was struck and injured while participating in a peaceful protest outside a re-election fundraiser for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
The car struck two protesters and sped away without stopping. News reports have identified the car passenger as a co-host and sponsor of the Rackauckas event. A spokesman for the Costa Mesa Police Department, whose officers investigated at the scene, said the case was being transferred out of Rackauckas’s office and to the attorney general’s.
“Rackauckas was clearly not qualified to oversee an unbiased investigation, and not just because his policies and conduct in office were being protested,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “Less than a day after the incident – long before a police report was filed – his campaign manager issued a statement calling the protesters an ‘aggressive mob.’ Eyewitness accounts strongly refute that characterization.”
Hamme was part of a small group that was exercising its free speech rights by holding up signs and verbally protesting. He was treated initially at a local hospital and continues to receive medical treatment.
“In some parts of the country, it’s seen as open season on rightful protesters,” Villagra said. “That should not be accepted in California or anywhere else. We look forward to the attorney general conducting a fair and unbiased investigation of this alarming incident.”