Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man on Sunday morning, and now a video of the disturbing incident is circulating on social media. The footage on Facebook, which was filmed at 11:36 a.m. in downtown L.A.’s Skid Row area, shows a man swinging at four police officers as they try to restrain him. More cops arrive on the scene, and the man is forced to the ground. A woman picks up a nightstick dropped by one of the officers, and is quickly disarmed and handcuffed. Meanwhile, one of the officers tussling with the man on the sidewalk shouts, “Drop the gun. Drop the gun.” Then there are five gunshots, leaving the man on the ground motionless.
An LAPD spokesman initially told KTLA that officers were responding to a reported altercation between two people. Later, Sergeant Barry Montgomery said they were answering a robbery call and used a Taser at one point in the struggle. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, and no officers were injured.
Witnesses identified the victim as a homeless man who went by the name “Africa.” Ina Murphy, who lives nearby, told the Los Angeles Times that Africa has been living in the area for four or five months, and told her he’d just been released from a mental facility, where he spent the last decade. Another resident said police had repeatedly asked Africa to take down his tent.
As usual, there were some discrepancies in how witnesses recalled the incident. Yolanda Young told CBS Los Angeles that Africa was fighting with another man in a tent, then started struggling with the police. “Next thing I know,” she said, “dude swung on a cop and the cop swung back. And they were hitting on him and then two other cop cars pulled up and they got out of the car and ran over there, and they had three tasers out.” Dennis Horne mentioned a fight inside a tent, too, and told the Times that when Africa refused to come out, officers Tasered him and dragged him out. Lonnie Franklin said Africa was already face-down on the sidewalk when five or six officers approached with their weapons drawn. He said they “went straight to lethal force” when Africa started resisting. Another witness said they saw Africa reach for an officer’s gun before shots were fired.
Sergeant Montgomery said police are interviewing “loads of people” who witnessed the shooting, and expect to recover surveillance footage of the incident. “It’s going to be a long investigation, and we will get to the bottom of it,” Sergeant Montgomery said.
Update: The Los Angeles Police Protective League has issued a statement on the shooting.