LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Facing a wave of mounting public outcry, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday defended an officer’s shooting of a knife-wielding man whose death sparked a violent protest in which demonstrators pelted police with rocks and bottles.
Beck Pledges “Transparent” Investigation Process
Beck told the Police Commission that witness and officer accounts indicate that the officer who killed Guatemalan immigrant Manuel Jamines on Sunday acted “in immediate defense of life” and that he was warned in English and Spanish to drop the knife, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The shooting prompted demonstrations Monday afternoon near MacArthur Park in an inner-city area west of downtown with a large population of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Central America. Demonstrators marched back and forth between a bustling shopping area where the shooting occurred and the Rampart police station three blocks away. Some held a a candlelight vigil.
On Monday night, some protesters began hurling rocks, bottles and debris at officers and set some trash on fire. By the time the confrontation ended at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, four people had been arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor inciting a riot, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.
Three officers were slightly injured by hurled debris but returned to duty, he said.
Lt. Andrew Neiman claimed “provocateurs” started the confrontation, according to reports.
There was no further violence Tuesday, but officers planned to keep squads on streets in the area through the day, he added.
Beck provided a detailed preliminary account of the shooting to the civilian commission that oversees the police force. He said three bicycle patrol officers were flagged down Sunday afternoon and told that a man with a knife was threatening people.
Some people in the neighborhood have said that Jamines understood little or no English. However, Beck said officers who spotted the man repeatedly ordered him, in both English and Spanish, to drop the knife. Instead, he raised it over his head and moved toward the officers, one of whom fired two shots at him, Beck said.
Jamines, 37, was pronounced dead at the scene. Friends said he was a construction worker and father of three.
Protesters contended the man was drunk but not dangerous and say officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue him. Beck said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons that are found in patrol cars.
Neiman said Jamines was known in the neighborhood as a habitually drunk nuisance and that witnesses identified him as threatening people with the knife before he was shot, City News Service said.
“One of those was a woman who said she saw the suspect threatening a woman with a knife,” he said. “Her attention was
drawn by a crying 4-year-old who was standing next to the woman.” The witness said she told the man to “go away” because he was scaring people and then he threatened her as well, Neiman said. The police union issued a statement Tuesday calling the shooting a “tragic accident” but said community activists were trying to stir up controversy.
“Getting drunk and threatening bystanders and then LAPD officers with a knife is dangerous and self-destructive in any
language,” said the statement from the Los Angeles Police Protective League. “This was not and should not be a controversial shooting.”
MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash, where police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured as officers cleared the park.
The embarrassing incident cost the city more than $13 million in lawsuit settlements. Police were retrained on crowd control, forming skirmish lines, using batons in a crowd and using extraction teams to identify and arrest violent demonstrators.
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