A graphic video is currently circulating the social media, showing how three Los Angeles police officers fired on and killed a homeless man on the city’s Skid Row during a struggle between the man and the officers on Sunday. However, the LAPD has defended the actions of the officers saying they only resorted to deadly force after the man reached for one of their guns.
The graphic video which had been taken by innocent by-standers went viral within a few hours of the incident and heightened attention to the death of the man who had wrestled with the police amid the tents, sleeping bags and trash of Skid Row, where many of the city’s homeless stay.
Authorities said the officers were responding to a report of a robbery, and when they confronted the suspect, the incident escalated. apparently, the man had tried to resist arrest and in the process, had reached for one of the officer’s guns.
LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said “The preliminary investigation revealed that during that altercation, at least one less-than-lethal device, a Taser, was deployed,” he went on to say “However, at this time, we still do not know if that Taser did strike the suspect.”
Also, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said “Anytime we have an officer-involved shooting and there’s a loss of life, people are upset and justifiably so…Nobody out there, no police officer out there, wants to be involved in a situation like this where you have to take someone else’s life.”
Contrary to what the police is saying, witnesses including a Larry Jackson, said the man was already subdued when officers shot him.
“Next thing I knew, I heard one shot and I looked over across the street and I see three more shots being fired at the guy who was laying down on the ground. Instead of hand-cuffing the guy, they straight out shot him,” Jackson said.
An angry crowd had immediately gathered after the gunfire, as police cordoned off the scene and ordered onlookers to back away.
One witness could be heard complaining that there had been at least six officers to handle the situation, and that the mortally wounded man had been unarmed.
“That man never was a threat,” said Lonnie Franklin, 53, who said he was across the street when the shooting occurred. “The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him.”
Witnesses identified the dead man by his street name, “Africa,” and said he’d been living in a tent on skid row for a few months after spending a long stretch in a mental health facility.
The LAPD has struggled for years to effectively police downtown’s expansive skid row, which is a frequent destination for people with severe mental illnesses.
“We have to deal with the aftermath of a system that’s failed,” Officer Deon Joseph, a 16-year skid row beat cop, said on Sunday.
Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said Sunday evening that he was watching the video repeatedly trying to hear exactly what the officers said to the man. He encourages the public not to jump to conclusions about what had happened, but to allow them to investigate properly and find out what truly happened.
According to a Times data analysis, there have been 12 fatal officer-involved incidents in downtown Los Angeles since 2000. There was none in 2014 and one in 2015 before Sunday’s violence.
Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, said Africa had arrived in the area about four or five months ago and that he told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a mental health facility.
Another area resident, whose driver’s license identified him as Booker T. Washington, said police had come by repeatedly to ask Africa to take down his tent. This is in obedience to the rule that people are allowed to sleep on the streets from 9 p.m to 6 a.m., but are supposed to remove their tents during the daytime, under a court agreement.
A group of L.A. civil rights leaders urged the Police Commission on Sunday night to hold a special hearing on the use of force by officers on skid row. Watch the video: