‘SWAT mafia’: In whistleblower complaint, LAPD officer accuses elite unit of glorifying deadly force

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LAPD SWAT officers muster during a search for a murder suspect in Van Nuys in 2019. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

LAPD SWAT officers muster during a search for a murder suspect in Van Nuys in 2019. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

After assessing the hilly terrain around a Sunland house where a homeless man had holed up one morning in May 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department’s heavily armed SWAT team requested more firepower — and got it in the form of a helicopter equipped for “aerial shooting,” dubbed “Sniper-1.”

By the time they’d left the scene hours later, the team had fired more than 40 rounds at 29-year-old Anthony Soderberg, including more than a dozen from the helicopter — a first in LAPD history. Many of the rounds were fired from hundreds of feet away, and many came after a bloodied and unarmed Soderberg had exited the home, rolled off the edge of a patio and dropped into a ravine, where he’d later be pronounced dead.

The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that the officers had opened fire when they were not in imminent danger or when they were too far away to determine if a threat existed. Of 13 officers investigated, the commission ruled that 12 had used deadly force in a way that “was not objectively reasonable and was out of policy.”

It was one of three incidents that a SWAT officer reported to LAPD internal affairs early last year as part of a whistleblower complaint about the elite unit.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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