LAPD Probably Fully Justified In Shooting Homeless Guy As He Lay Prone On Ground, Says LAPD
Sunday was a lovely day in Los Angeles, unless you were the homeless guy on downtown’s Skid Row scuffling with LAPD officers who shot and killed you while holding you down on the sidewalk. Then maybe your day was not so good.
On the other hand, your death was caught on video and broadcast all over the world from a city where millions continually seek fortune and fame. Right now there are probably actors all over town growling with jealousy, so there’s that!
Here is what little we know. The LAPD says it was called out to investigate a robbery on Skid Row. Officers zeroed in on the homeless man in his 30s who went by the name “Africa,” either because he was suspected of involvement in the robbery or had been involved in another altercation. Africa began scuffling with several cops, who got him on the ground. They shocked him with a Taser that proved ineffective. Then one of the officers, who had pulled his gun, shot Africa five times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
You can watch the video above if you haven’t seen it yet (TRIGGER WARNING: It’s violent and disturbing and there is also a lot of loud cursing, so maybe NSFW without headphones.)
There is A LOT going on here. You have the LAPD, an organization with a well-known history of violent behavior toward citizens of a duskier hue. You have a suspect who witnesses report was known to have mental problems, who was homeless and lived in a tent on Skid Row, one of the most vile blights on Los Angeles that has bedeviled our civic leaders for years. You have angry, distrustful onlookers with a video camera, a combination that has almost led to all of L.A. burning to the ground in the past.
Now, to what we have been told by the LAPD that is not clear on that video: Officers claim that Africa had grabbed for one cop’s gun, which caused another cop to fire. (In the video you can hear one officer yelling “Drop the gun!”) It is very unclear just how subdued Africa was at the moment of the shooting. He does not seem to be moving, really, but with the distance and the camera angle there is no way to be sure.
The LAPD, in the course of rushing to judgment, would like everyone to not rush to judgment. Though one of the officers was reported to be wearing one of those body cameras that we wish Darren Wilson had been wearing in Ferguson last summer, so maybe that will help determine what exactly happened.
Being a long-time denizen of L.A., yr Wonkette sympathizes with the difficult job of policing Skid Row, a more-or-less permanent encampment that looks like a refugee center in a war zone. The vast majority of the homeless who live there have serious mental problems and need help that they are not getting. It’s pretty much every terrible stereotype wingnuts threw around about the Occupy Wall Street tent cities that sprang up a few years ago come to vivid life.
BUT…after years of seeming improvements in the conduct of its officers (federal oversight certainly helped), the LAPD has had a couple of high-profile shootings in recent months that, combined with this latest killing, start looking like a bad pattern. Just last week, the district attorney declined to file charges against three officers who shot and killed a man at the end of a high-speed pursuit in 2013. That little action cost the city $5 million in a settlement with the man’s family, and there is a good chance that Police Chief Charlie Beck is going to fire the officers, so that’s something at least.
Just three months ago, two LAPD officers also shot and killed a man who was allegedly armed with a pocketknife. The shooting took place at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, one of the most heavily trafficked tourist areas in the city. The victim was initially reported to be one of the costumed street performers who prowl Hollywood Boulevard dressed up like movie characters, taking pictures with tourists for tips. This particular guy used to dress like the masked killer in “Scream” and brandish a fake knife at people.
In that case, the LAPD took the time to tweet out photos of the three-inch pocketknife that the officers found so threatening, which is a pretty damn rare thing for cops to do. Almost like they were trying to get ahead of the story.
Coincidentally (OR NOT), these incidents have all occurred since the end of the federal consent decree imposed in 2001.
Now before any wingnuts accuse us of playing the race card and filling up our non-existent comments section with cries of “All lives matter!”, we’ll mention that the victims in the two earlier cases were both white. It doesn’t change the fact that interactions with cops in general more often end badly for young black men than for any other racial group. So take the whining over to Townhall.
Meanwhile, the LAPD will keep investigating Sunday’s shooting, hopefully while feeling the pressure from the public. And maybe this incident will spur some action to clean up Skid Row and institute some humane mental health policies to try to help the people who have made it their home. We’re cynics, but we would love to be proven wrong.