Just over a week after LAPD officers fatally shot an assistant manager of a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s following a pursuit, authorities released video of another incident in Van Nuys in June that left a suspect and his hostage dead after being struck by police gunfire.
Chief Michel Moore released footage of the June 16 incident during a news conference Tuesday.
Moore said that the Van Nuys shooting was yet another example of officers having to make spilt-second decisions based on the actions of a violent person.
“It’s been 13 years since an officer’s gunfire has killed an innocent bystander or hostage in this department. In the last six weeks, it’s happened twice,” Moore said.
During the incident in June, police were called to a report of a man stabbing his ex-girlfriend outside Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. Responding officers found the man, later identified as Guillermo Perez , 32, armed with a large knife and a metal folding chair.
The graphic bodycam video shows the officers yelling at the Perez several times to drop the knife. One officer later fires beanbag rounds at the suspect, who continues to hold the knife. At one point the man drops the chair, grabs a woman in the area, puts the knife against her throat and began to cut her, the video shows.
Police again tell the man to drop his weapon, but three officers fire a total of 18 shots at the man as he continues to hold the woman. Both the suspect and the victim then fall to the ground, video shows. Moore said the woman, later identified as Elizabeth Tollison, 49, was shot twice by police gunfire and later died from her injuries. She was described by the chief as being homeless.
Another woman was found with lacerations and a large knife was recovered at the scene. No officers were injured.
Moore expressed “sadness” for the “horrible situation” and said he had been in contact with Tollison’s family. The video shows Tollison, who appears to be holding a walker, remains in the same location as the incident unfolded. Moore said she must have “froze.”
He described a hostage situation as a “balancing act” in trying to figure out how to protect the victim, while also stopping the suspect’s actions.
“The life of a hostage is paramount, and protecting that individual from the threat of the assailant,” Moore said.
He added that the incident remains under investigation. In addition, investigators are determining whether the number of shots that were fired was appropriate and matches up with LAPD protocol during a critical incident, the chief said.
“This was a tense situation that unfolded very quickly and it’s every officer’s worst nightmare. An innocent person, Elizabeth Tollison, was killed.”
The chief said that at the time of the Van Nuys shooting, the department was analyzing other officer-involved shootings from the previous year and noticed similarities. He noted that the number of officers involved in an incident has increased, while the effectiveness of less than lethal tools has declined.
The agency is now working on ways to improve less lethal weapons and will work to avoid “over deployment” of lethal cover officers, Moore said.
He also noted that sometimes lethal force is the only option because his officers face “violent and deadly situations.”
Police said Perez had previously been convicted of robbery and had been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence, and had recently been released from jail. He was also described as a documented gang member.
The suspect in the Trader Joe’s shooting, Gene Atkins, faces about 30 charges in connection with the incident, including murder, after Melyda Corado was fatally shot by police gunfire.
Police released dashcam and body camera video of that shooting less than a week after it occurred.