A homeless man fatally shot by police in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles on Sunday had grabbed an officer’s pistol, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Monday.
Beck made the statement during a noon press conference to update the public on the department’s investigation into the deadly shooting, which was captured on video.
“While on the ground and struggling with the officers, the man forcibly grabbed one of the officer’s holstered pistols, resulting in an officer-involved shooting,” Beck said.
Police were responding to a robbery call at East Sixth Street and South San Pedro Street (map) when the shooting took place.
When officers arrived “they saw the individual they believed was a suspect and attempted to take him into custody,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith told reporters following Sunday’s shooting.
Video taken by a bystander Anthony Blackburn and posted to Facebook showed several officers involved in an altercation with the man.
Multiple attempts by officers to disable the man by using Tasers were apparently unsuccessful, Smith said. Witness Yolanda Young said the homeless man would just get back up after being stunned.
“He was down but then he jumped up, like he was juiced up, and then he started swinging at the police and they were fighting him back,” Young said.
The man then allegedly grabbed for the officer’s weapon, according to Beck.
“I have reviewed video and audio. … Preliminary, you can hear the young officer who is primarily engaged in the confrontation saying that ‘he has my gun. He has my gun.’ … He says it several times, with conviction,” Beck said.
Officers then opened fire on the man, who died at the scene.
“This is an extreme tragedy,” said Beck, who added that the incident “highlights homeless and mental health issues on Skid Row.”
“We prepare our officers to deal as best they can with them, but the reality is this is much more than a problem the police alone can solve,” Beck said.
Witnesses said the man went by the street name “Africa,” but he has not been officially identified.
People who know the man said he’d been living in a tent on Skid Row for a few months after spending a long time in a mental health facility.
Witness Tanya Edwards said officers didn’t need to shoot the man.
“They don’t know how to handle the situation,” Edwards said.
Beck said all of the officers involved had undergone special training “to some extent” to deal with homeless and mental health issues.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League issued a statement regarding the shooting Monday.
“LAPD officers … face complex situations, unthinkable dangers and split-second decisions … As tragic as those situations are law enforcement officers absolutely have the right to defend their life or the life of another.”
The sergeant and two officers involved in the shooting have been put on paid leave during the investigation.
Police were working to gather several different videos that likely captured the shooting.
At least two bystander videos have been submitted and new surveillance video surfaced Monday from atop the Union Mission building.
Also, two of the officers were wearing body cameras, Beck said.
Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson expressed concern over the objectivity and impartiality of the police department’s investigation and called for Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a special investigator.
“The governor has the power and the authority to appoint a special investigator. We’re calling on Gov. Brown to make this a priority,” Hutchinson said.
KTLA’s John Moreno contributed to this report.