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LAPD ‘Justified’ in Shooting of Homeless Black Man, Activists Frustrated with DA’s Lack of Action

LAPD officers tackle Charly "Africa" Keunang. Keunang was shot dead by officers in March 2015.

LAPD officers tackle Charly “Africa” Keunang. Keunang was shot dead by officers on March 1, 2015.

A Los Angeles Police Commission has cleared officers involved in the shooting death of a Black homeless man on Skid Row.

The commission made the decision during a closed-door meeting, said ABC News. However, one officer was found guilty of violating the department’s tactics policy, although the commission never explained their decision. LAPD officers shot Charly “Africa” Keunang on March 1, 2015. The incident was captured on video and viewed millions of times.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the shooting was justified because Keunang, a native of Cameroon, was combative, ignored commands and reached for an officer’s gun. Keunang’s family has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD.

Joshua Piovia-Scott, an attorney representing Keunang’s family, said he found it difficult to believe that six police officers had to use lethal force to subdue one man.

“This is a cop-created killing,” said Piovia-Scott. “It’s hard to believe that six heavily armed and trained officers and one unarmed, lone homeless man on a sunny street on a sunny day results in those officers holding the man down to the concrete and shooting him in the chest and killing him.”

Community activist Hamid Kahn accused the police commission of failing to hold the LAPD accountable.

“We’re extremely, extremely disappointed,” said Kahn. “We’re not surprised because the police commission is such a rubber-stamp body. But there’s always this one flicker of hope that their own humanity will kick in and they will look at these things not to protect the police officers, but really to protect the community and speak the truth.”

The Los Angeles police have been involved in several controversial shootings. According to ABC News, Beck recommended criminal charges against an officer who shot an unarmed homeless man on May 5. This was the first time Beck had recommended charges against an officer who shot someone on duty. ABC News reported that more than 100 shootings have occurred since Beck became chief in 2009.

The LAPD is also currently dealing with fallout of the 2014 shooting of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old Black man. Police claim Ford knocked an officer to the ground and tried to grab his gun.

In December 2015, local Black Lives Matter activists staged a freeway protest to complain about the lack of prosecution of LAPD officers. However, the BLM protesters also spray painted the freeway and are now facing felony charges. Color of Change has launched a petition calling on Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles’ first Black district attorney, to drop the charges. More than 9,000 people have signed the petition so far.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Los Angeles-based author, activist and political analyst, said the protest reflected the Black community’s frustration with Lacey.

“Jackie Lacey has been roundly and deservedly criticized for her failure to prosecute officers who commit blatant abuse. The California Highway Patrol officer who beat Marlene Pinnock was a textbook example of her refusal to prosecute — even when the CHP recommended prosecution,” said Hutchinson in an interview with California Black Media. “This is why many in the Black community have called for her to resign and have even talked of a recall. There have been protests outside her downtown L.A. office. Her support among Blacks almost certainly will take a big hit when she’s up for reelection in the next year.”

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