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LAPD Releases Bodycam Video of Fatal Incident in South L.A., a First for the Department

Los Angeles Police Department officials on Wednesday released body camera video of a fatal incident in May involving a suspected burglar in South L.A.

It was the first time the agency released video of a "critical incident" under its new policy. The 17-minute video of the May 6 encounter with Jose Chavez is edited, and it is narrated by Cmdr. Alan Hamilton.

“It’s very important to the Los Angeles Police Department that we be as accountable as possible to the public,” outgoing Chief Charlie Beck said during a news conference Wednesday.

The video begins with a 911 call of a man reporting a possible prowler allegedly trying to break into cars in the 4400 block of Towne Avenue.

The video shows officers approaching Chavez, 24, and ask if he needs any medical attention. They tell him to go home and when he doesn't, they request back up.

"We're trying to help you dude," one officer tells Chavez, telling him to "relax," the video shows.

Chavez then moves to the front of the home as officers continue to try to reason with him and they warn him that he will be tasered or beanbagged, the video shows.

At one point, he picks up a white flower and holds it toward officers as they continue to ask him to surrender.

Later, Chavez is shot with a beanbag bullet. He then goes to the side of the house and appears to huff automotive fluid and pours it on his arms and legs, the video shows. He then grabs a metal pipe and when he won't drop it, officers fire additional beanbag rounds, the video shows.

About 30 minutes later, Hamilton said, police decide to use a Taser to try and subdue Chavez. Once he is "down" several officers surround him and yell at him to "stop resisting." Police place two sets of handcuffs on Chavez as at least one officer gets on top of him, the video shows.

The officers then move Chavez to the front of the yard in an attempt to search the home and deem those inside safe, Hamilton explains in the video.

Chavez continued to resist officers and spit in their direction, despite being handcuffed, the video shows. One officer continues to tell him, "Relax, dude," in English and Spanish.

Hamilton said a mental evaluation team was called to the scene, but no one was available. The officers eventually noticed that Chavez's breathing had become labored and eventually stopped. Officers notified the Los Angeles Fire Department of Chavez's status. They treated him and took him to a hospital, where he later died.

In the video, police indicate that Chavez had prior convictions of battery resulting in serious injury, battery on a peace officer, possession of a controlled substance and vandalism.

The Chavez family has filed a wrongful death claim against the LAPD.  They say Chavez was not a prowler, but was going back to the home where he worked the day before to get his backpack.

Beck says the use of force in this case was less lethal and believes the coroner’s toxicology report, which has not yet been completed, will show Chavez did not die as a result of his officers actions. He said the officers' actions were justified.

"I see nothing on its face that the officers did that is different than how they are trained,” Beck said during the news conference.

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