A grieving wife is asking for answers after her husband, who had schizophrenia, was shot five times by Los Angeles Police Department officers.
Authorities claim the man had a knife and raised it above his head, a gesture seen as a threat, but his loved ones are asking for the immediate release of body-camera footage for a complete picture of why he ended up bullet-ridden.
On Monday, Jan. 2, Shameka Smith said she went to the LAPD’s Rampart station to request support regarding her husband Takar Smith, who was having a violent episode related to his mental illness.
Smith said her husband was throwing things around the apartment during the episode.
The wife told the officers at the station she asked her husband to leave. However, despite having a restraining order on him, he refused.
Smith was given a number for non-emergency dispatch while at the station and returned to her apartment building, where Takar continued to show manic behavior.
Hours later, after officers showed up to their home to check on everyone’s safety, the father of six was fatally shot.
Smith told the Los Angeles Times her exact words to the officers before they went into the apartment: “Please don’t kill my husband” — informing them, “He’s not in his right mind.”
The 45-year-old had been treated for his mental illness for several years. Even though doctors had prescribed him medication to subdue the symptoms caused by his schizophrenia disorder, friends and family say he had been progressively getting worse, and it was becoming an issue in the couple’s marriage.
One of Smith’s neighbors said it sounded like her husband and the officers were fighting and ran to alert her that something was going wrong.
Immediately, Smith tried to reach her husband but was stopped by a cop in the hallway. Attentively, she waited for her opportunity to check on Takar. While she was waiting, she heard multiple gunshots fire off.
Her husband was shot by at least one of the responding officers, and now she wants answers.
Days later, Smith is publicly appealing for the body-camera footage to be released. She wants to see if it aligns with the story the LAPD released on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
According to LAPD Officer Mike Lopez, officers went to the apartment building in response to a domestic violence restraining order violation around 3:30 p.m.
The department states that once officers verified the restraining order, they called in for “additional units, supervisor, and formulated a tactical plan.”
“Upon arrival, the officers made contact with the suspect, a male in his 40s, inside of an apartment unit. The suspect refused to exit the apartment unit or comply with the officer’s orders, and they continued talking to him for approximately 15 minutes,” Lopez stated.
Lopez said Takar picked up “a large knife,” prompting his colleagues to try to disarm him using less-lethal force, igniting a taser and releasing pepper spray.
“The suspect momentarily dropped the knife but immediately rearmed himself with the large knife at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Lopez said.
Police state they tried to provide aid to Takar. However, by the time the Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics arrived, the Black man was pronounced dead, MSN reports.
The officer said an internal investigation into the police-involved shooting, led by the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, the District Attorney’s office, and the Office of the Inspector General, has begun.
Once the review of all evidence is complete, details that include the officers’ body camera video will be a part of a Critical Incident Community Briefing within 45 days.
Omri Bookman, Smith’s sister, said, “The situation could’ve been handled differently,” questioning why it escalated into a deadly use of force. “As many officers as there were, somebody, could’ve tackled him.”
There is no word on if Smith has secured counsel to help her obtain access to the unedited footage before the briefing is released.
Over the last year, the LAPD has been wrestling with how it responds to calls involving people suffering from a mental health crisis. Suggestions include pairing officers with health professionals with experience and clinical tools to de-escalate situations like this one. Several of these programs, like its internal Mental Evaluation Unit, have explored alternative ways to assist people in crisis in a safe and compassionate manner.
Before MEU, according to the LAist, a cop would call in the teams as secondary responders in cases of a mental health crisis. Now, both civil servants go out together to meet the person’s needs in the breakdown.
MEU was not called to evaluate Takar on the day he died, only patrollers.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore has noted that while there is a need to partner with mental health professionals, once a suspect or patient has a weapon, police have to respond a certain way.
Takar’s 10-inch butcher knife that he allegedly lifted during his confrontation was considered a weapon and was retrieved from the scene of the shooting by the LAPD and entered as evidence.