Video shows fatal shooting of homeless man by Los Angeles police

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 02, 2015 1:00 AM

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles police officers trying to subdue a robbery suspect in the city's skid row section shot and killed the man as he tried to grab an officer's gun during a scuffle that was captured on video, police said on Monday.

The dead man was reported by the Los Angeles Times to have been a homeless man known by his street name, Africa, who according to witnesses at the scene had been living in a tent for a few months after a period in a mental health facility.

Footage of Sunday's confrontation, widely circulated on the Internet and replayed on television news, marked the latest in a string of incidents to put police around the country under heightened scrutiny over the use of lethal force.

Local civil rights activists called on the Los Angeles Police Commission to hold a special hearing on the exercise of force by police on skid row, a 50-block area of the city that ranks as one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in United States.

The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that the man in question was a suspect in a robbery who began fighting with officers as they tried to take into custody.

It said the man continued to resist arrest, even as officers tried to subdue him with a Taser electric stun gun, and they fell to the sidewalk.

"While on the ground, the suspect and officers struggled over one of the officer's handguns and then an officer-involved shooting occurred," the department said.

Paramedics pronounced the suspect dead at the scene, it added, while two of the officers suffered minor injuries and were treated and released.

A video recorded by an onlooker shows at least four police officers scuffling with the man on the ground beside what appears to be a collection of plastic tarps and sleeping bags on the sidewalk.

Someone is heard shouting "Drop the gun!" and several gunshots ring out, as angry bystanders gather around the scene shouting at police, "They just shot that man," and "Ain't nobody got no gun."

The police said its internal investigation of the shooting will be conducted in coordination with its Office of Inspector General and will be presented to the police commissioners board to determine if the use of deadly force was justified.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office also will review the incident.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff told the Los Angeles Times that when he saw the video of Sunday's shooting: "My heart just started pounding ... These situations are just so horrific."

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, an officers union, issued a statement urging members of the public to "reserve their judgment as there is much to learn about the incident."

(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud and Laila Kearney from New York; Editing by Nick Macfie, Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott)