A Los Angeles police officer will not face charges in the fatal shooting of a Black woman in South Los Angeles, a controversial killing that sparked weeks of protests outside City Hall.
The District Attorney’s Office went public with its decision Tuesday, June 6, almost two years after Officer Brett Ramirez shot and killed 30-year-old Redel Jones, who authorities say was armed with a knife and suspected of robbing a local pharmacy shortly before her death, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a memo explaining their reasoning, prosecutors argued that Ramirez reasonably feared for his life and lawfully fired his gun in self-defense. Jones, they said, was an “armed [and] dangerous fleeing felon” who the officer used “reasonable force to apprehend.”
The woman’s death came amid national controversy over the use of deadly force by police, especially against African-Americans. The 2015 shooting soon caught the attention of Black Lives Matter and other local activist groups, who rallied for Jones and chanted her name at weekly police oversight committee meetings. They even turned their cause into a social media hashtag, according to the Times.
In July, activists marched in protest from LAPD headquarters to City Hall, setting up camp there for more than a month. Despite their efforts, members of the oversight panel found that Ramirez hadn’t violated the department’s deadly-force policy when he shot and killed Jones. The DA’s recent decision not to charge the officer dealt a crushing blow to activists seeking justice for the slain woman.
“It’s enraging and heartbreaking at the same time,” said Melina Abdullah, a Cal State professor and Black Lives Matter organizer. “I think it points to a larger issue with this DA, where we haven’t seen any charges filed.”
Abdullah told the Times she felt the shooting warranted charges, and shot down the idea that Jones posed a threat to the officer.
Dale Galipo, a lawyer representing Jones’ family in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Ramirez and the City of Los Angeles, echoed the professor’s sentiments, saying that he was “disappointed but not surprised” the officer would not be charged.
“Why is there even a review process?” Galipo said. “It’s a farce.”
The series of events leading to the fatal shooting began around 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2015, after a woman (later identified as Jones) entered a local pharmacy and passed the cashier a note demanding cash.
“I have a gun,” the note read, as seen in the prosecutors’ memo. “Give me all the money in the register.”
Jones reportedly pointed a knife at the cashier and managed to take off with about $80. Police soon responded to the scene and spoke with the cashier, who described the robber as a Black female wearing an oversize beige shirt, baggy pants and a purple scarf tied on her head.
Police broadcast the assailant’s description, along with the description of the knife, after which Ramirez and his partner spotted Jones and trailed her as she walked along an alley. The officers reportedly demanded her to stop, but Jones kept walking, the memo read. At that point, the officers parked their car, got out and went after the woman on foot. That’s when Jones pulled out the knife.
“She’s got a knife in hand! She’s running!” Ramirez shouted into his radio, according to the memo. Officers repeatedly commanded Jones to stop and drop her weapon as they chased her down the alley. At one point, the memo states that Jones took steps toward the officer and “lunged” at him with the knife, prompting Ramirez to shoot.
Ramirez’ partner also fired his Taser but missed. Jones died at the scene.
The note used in the robbery was found under the woman’s bloodied body and the money found stashed in her pants pocket, according to the memo. Police also recovered a 13-inch black-handled knife with an 8-inch blade.
“You all stole her from me,” Jones’ husband, Marcus Vaughn, told the police commissioners board last year, saying he wanted the officers prosecuted.
Larry Hanna, one of the lawyers who represented Ramirez after the shooting, said he wasn’t surprised that the DA declined to bring charges.
“Officers are always saddened when they have to take a life,” Hanna said. “She stopped so suddenly and lunged at the officer — he had no choice.”