LA chief says man killed by police on ‘skid row’ had grabbed officer’s gun

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Los Angeles police chief said Monday that a homeless man shot and killed by officers over the weekend had forcibly grabbed one officer’s gun.

Chief Charlie Beck, during a news conference to discuss the shooting, which was captured on video and has been widely viewed, pointed to a photo taken from one video recorded by a bystander in which, he said, it “appears the suspect’s hand is reaching for the officer’s waistband.”

The chief also said that an examination of the officer’s gun suggested there had been a struggle over the weapon.

Beck said that two officers involved in the incident were wearing body cameras and that footage, along with video taken by bystanders and captured on private surveillance cameras, was being examined as part of the department’s investigation of the shooting.

The incident on Sunday began when officers responded to 911 calls regarding a potential robbery around noon on San Pedro Street near the Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles police officer Dave Romero told The Washington Post late Sunday.

He said that when police arrived at the scene in the city’s “skid row” – a homeless community lined with tents, trash and old grocery carts – they said they encountered someone and “use of force” ensued.

Footage from a video taken by a bystander shows what initially looks like a fistfight between a police officer and the victim. Then, at least three other officers helped wrestle him to the ground.

Beck said Monday that the man “repeatedly refused to comply with officers’ commands” and started fighting with them. At one point, they used stun guns. “However, the tasers appeared to have little effect, and he continued to violently resist,” the chief said. “While on the ground and struggling with the officers, the man forcibly grabbed one of the officers’ holstered pistol, resulting (in) an officer-involved shooting.”

He said officers immediately called paramedics, who pronounced the man dead at the scene.

Police have not released the victim’s name but witnesses have identified him by a nickname, “Africa,” and said he was homeless, the Los Angeles Times reported.

At the news conference, Beck also showed photos of the weapon in question. He said that the condition of the weapon, including the slide having been partially engaged and a round partially ejected, “is indicative of the struggle over a weapon.”

{{tncms-asset app=”editorial” id=”9842d714-a002-5550-a08e-d84e4ed4af1f”}}