Los Angeles police chief says homeless man's slaying may not have been justified

Reuters News
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Posted: May 07, 2015 2:16 AM

(Reuters) - Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said on Wednesday he had not seen evidence to justify the shooting death of an unarmed man by police officers during an altercation in the Venice Beach area.

Two police officers, responding late on Tuesday to emergency calls of a person "harassing customers" in an area near the neighborhood's boardwalk, attempted to detain a man who was shot during the altercation, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper, citing friends, said the victim was a homeless man in his 20s nicknamed "Dizzle".

"Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances," Beck told a news conference on Wednesday.

Beck added that the investigation was ongoing.

The incident follows the slaying of another homeless man by Los Angeles police in March after police said he grabbed for an officer's holstered gun during a scuffle as police sought to arrest him on suspicion of robbery.

It also joins a series of incidents that have put law enforcement agencies across the United States under scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.

In Tuesday night's incident, the suspect was pronounced dead at hospital. One of the officers was treated for an injured knee.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper reported the shooting was among three incidents over about eight hours in which police fired their weapons.

The officers had not been wearing body cameras and there was no dashboard camera that captured the incident, the newspaper reported. But the incident was recorded by a security camera on a nearby building, the paper said.

Beck said police would host a town hall-style meeting in Venice on Thursday, the Times said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Alex Richardson)