More details and different accounts of what happened during a fatal struggle between Los Angeles police officers and a homeless man on Skid Row have started to emerge, but as cell phone videos hit the web and investigations are underway, the public is still eagerly waiting to see the footage captured by police body cameras.
Sunday’s violent incident was captured on multiple cameras including a surveillance camera, cell phone videos and police body cameras. Even then, however, there seems to be confusion over what happened and where exactly things went wrong.
The LAPD officers confronted a homeless man after receiving reports of a robbery, but the altercation quickly turned into a physical altercation and ended with three of the officers fatally shooting the man as he tussled with another officer.
According to Police Chief Charlie Beck, the suspect reached for the rookie officer’s gun, at which point the other officers on the scene fired.
When cell phone footage of the incident was released, online debates immediately sparked about whether or not the use of deadly force was necessary and whether or not the officers were sufficiently trained to deal with the situation.
Los Angeles’s downtrodden Skid Row is the home of many homeless residents, many of whom are mentally ill or battling substance abuse.
Chief Beck insists that most of the officers on the scene had completed rigorous training on how to deal with mentally ill suspects, although the rookie officer whose gun was allegedly up for grabs did not complete that same course.
“The way you have conversations, the way you offer options, the way that you give some space, the body language that you portray, the way that you escalate, all of that is part of the training,” Beck said at a news conference on Monday. “I will make judgment on that when I review the totality of the investigation, but on the face of it, it appears they did try all of that.”
This statement seems to be at the foundation of much public discourse.
At least two of the officers were wearing body cameras, according to reports by NPR, but the public has yet to see those videos.
In the midst of concerns about how policies surrounding body cameras would be used to continue protecting officers rather than help provide thorough accounts of deadly encounters with police, Chief Beck has refused to release the tapes to the public.
“Two of the officers were wearing body cameras—part of a new pilot program in the LAPD’s central city bureaus,” NPR’s Kirk Siegler reported. “However, so far, Chief Beck is refusing to make those videos public.”
Instead, the police chief is hoping the public will simply take his word for what he saw on the videos.
“I’ve reviewed the other videos,” Beck said. “It appears to me the officers acted compassionately up until the time when force was required.”
While Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti ensure the public that a “full investigation” has been launched into the matter, it’s been far too often that such investigations are shrouded in secrecy and ultimately produce questionable results.
Both the homeless man that was fatally shot and the rookie officer were Black.
Two other officers quickly subdued a woman who picked up a dropped baton.
At this point, what exactly happened is still up for debate.
The young officer shouts “he has my gun” before shots can be heard ringing out.
According to reports by the Houston Chronicle, however, the rookie officer may not have been in any imminent danger.
“The weapon of the young officer who yelled ‘he has my gun’ was in a specialized holster with a rotating hood, designed to make it more difficult for someone to take it away, according to pictures provided by the LAPD,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
It was also later revealed that the gun was jammed and would not have fired although it seems unlikely that the rookie officer would have known that during the struggle.
The homeless man’s identity has not been released by investigators but another man, 48-year-old James Attaway, claims the victim’s name was Shawn. Attaway called him “Africa.”
Attaway, who is also homeless, slept near the victim and said they met while talking about religion and God.