Answers Demanded Following Fatal Shooting of Homeless Man by LAPD

Investigators with LAPD stand at the scene after a homeless man was shot and killed on skid row by Los Angeles police on Sunday. (Christina House, For The Times)

Caught on tape by bystander, a graphic video shows several officers failing to subdue homeless man before opening fire

Jon Queally

The fatal shooting Sunday of a homeless man by Los Angeles Police Department officers that was caught on video is spurring outrage in California and around the country. Critics are questioning why deadly force was used, given the number of officers on the scene and reports indicating the man, who witnesses said suffered from mental illness, did not have a weapon, at least when the altercation began.

The graphic video–posted to Facebook and viewed several million times overnight–comes as just the latest example of a police shooting caught on camera and is sure to add to the national outrage surrounding excessive force used by law enforcement.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

…. LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said there could be more video recordings of the incident, noting that he could see two surveillance cameras mounted on buildings at the scene.

The encounter was recorded by body cameras worn by at least one of the officers. It was unclear what that recording shows.

“It’s clear there was a struggle for the officer’s gun,” Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. No other gun was found at the scene.

Five shots can be heard on the video. Two officers and a sergeant fired their weapons, Smith said.

In addition to what can be seen on the video, firsthand witnesses to the shooting confirmed the man was acting violently and combatively but suggested he was not such a threat he deserved to be shot dead.

According to Yolanda Young, who spoke to local media, the man “was down but then he jumped up, like he was juiced up, and then he started swinging at the police and they were fighting him back,” before he was tackled to the ground.

“He didn’t have no weapon, they just shot him,” she continued. “They could have just wrestled him down and took him to jail, but they shot him five times.”

According to local CBS-affiliate KTLA, a man in the video, apparently an officer, is heard yelling during the scuffle: “Drop the gun. Drop the gun. He has a gun.” Police can then be seen opening fire.

And the Times adds:

An angry crowd gathered immediately after the gunfire, as police cordoned off the scene and ordered onlookers to back away.

One witness can be heard complaining that there had been at least six officers to handle the situation, and that the mortally wounded man had been unarmed.

“Ain’t nobody got no … gun!” he shouts.

“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 Times reports that civil rights advocates are demanding further answers from the LAPD and called for an immediate and impartial investigation into the shooting.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.