by Tobias Salinger
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Monday, March 2, 2015
Published: Sunday, March 1, 2015,
In the latest fatal police-involved shooting to spark controversy, video footage showed Los Angeles cops kill an unarmed homeless man on the city’s Skid Row Sunday after he allegedly reached for one of the officers’ guns.
The video, viewed millions of times after it hit the Internet, showed four officers wrestling with the man shortly before noon on San Pedro St.
The man took a swing at one of the cops, according to a witness. The cops tried to use a stun gun, but it did not stop the confrontation, a police official said. Three of the cops, one of whom was a sergeant, shot the man while he wrestled for control of their weapons, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith.
“It’s clear there was a struggle for the officer’s gun,” Smith said, cautioning that police were still investigating the shooting and analyzing the video, according to the L.A. Times.
There were no other weapons found at the shooting scene, an area in downtown Los Angeles where homeless people, many of them suffering from addiction or mental illness, are allowed to sleep in tents during overnight hours
On the video, shouting could be heard and a cry of the word “gun.” Then one person, presumably one of the cops, yelled: “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” Five shots followed.
A witness, Jose Gil, 38, told the L.A. Times that he saw the man throwing punches at the cops, and then one of the officers yelled: ‘He’s got my gun!” before the shots rang out.
As a crowd of onlookers protested the shooting, a woman questioned why four cops could not subdue the man.
«That man never was a threat,» Lonnie Franklin, 53, who was across the street when the shooting happened, told the L.A. Times. «The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him.»
The officers were initially responding to a report of a robbery. The man who was shot, whose name was not released but who was known on skid row as “Africa,” had been fighting with someone else in a tent before cops arrived.
Another witness interviewed by the L.A. Times, Dennis Horne, 29, said Africa refused to comply with a police order to exit the tent, and officers then used a stun gun and yanked him out.
Police had told the man to break down his tent during multiple prior visits to the area, said another local interviewed by the paper. City law allows the homeless to sleep on Skid Row between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., but their tents must be cleared from the area during daytime hours, according to the paper.
“This man got shot over a tent,” said the local, whose driver’s license identified him as Booker T. Washington, the L.A Times reported.
The man died at a local hospital. Two of the officers were treated for minor injuries, according to police.
The shooting is being investigated by the LAPD, the city’s independent inspector general and the district attorney. Investigators would analyze the events “very, very carefully,” said L.A. Police Commission President Steve Soboroff, according to the L.A. Times.
“Of course, I would encourage people not to rush to judgment. It’s not fair to anybody. It’s not fair to the family of the victim or the victim or the officers,” he said. «We’ll find out what happened.»