By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers has lashed out at LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for comments suggesting that the police slaying of an unarmed man during a scuffle in Venice Beach was unjustified.
At a news conference after viewing footage of the incident, Beck said Tuesday night's shooting may have been an excessive use of force by the officers involved.
"Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances," he said. "I don't know what was in the officer's mind."
Beck's comments drew sharp criticism from the head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Craig Lally, who called the chief's remarks "completely irresponsible".
"As the final trier of fact in the use-of-force investigation and disciplinary process, the premature decision by the chief essentially renders the investigation process void," Lally said. "By making his opinion public without having all the facts, he influences the investigation for all parties involved, including his command officers and the public."
The slain man was shot, according to police, during an altercation with two LAPD officers who were trying to detain him about two blocks from the Venice Beach boardwalk.
The suspect's name was not released by authorities, but Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin and the Los Angeles Times identified him as 29-year-old Brandon Glenn, a homeless man with a drinking problem.
Police said the confrontation unfolded after two officers responded to a report of an individual harassing customers and spoke briefly with the suspect. The officers returned to their patrol car, then intervened again when they saw the man struggle with a bouncer outside a business establishment, leading to a scuffle with police and the shooting.
Police said the slain man and the officer who shot him were both black, although the number of rounds fired and other circumstances remained under investigation.
About 400 people attended a town hall meeting with local officials and police on Thursday, and called on authorities to release surveillance video of the incident.
Police said it was too early to release the video because it could taint memories of possible witnesses.
The shooting was among the latest in a series of killings by police across the country that have raised questions about officers' use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Peter Cooney, Victoria Cavaliere and Alex Richardson)