LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The four-minute video is graphic, disturbing and filled with expletives.
That much isn’t under dispute.
But there is debate over what triggered the shooting captured on camera.
An amateur videographer on Sunday recorded a confrontation between a man and police on L.A’s Skid Row moments before he was shot to death while held down on the ground.
The incident occurred around noon.
The video was posted on websites within hours of the death by a man named Anthony Blackburn, including on his Facebook page. Here is a link to his Facebook page. The video is NSFW (not safe for work), filled with expletives and could be disturbing to some.]
The video — which was downloaded more than 3.2 million times in about 10 hours — shows the man fighting with four Los Angeles police officers on the sidewalk in front of the Union Rescue Mission, 545 S. San Pedro St. A police spokesman said officers had tried a Taser to subdue the alleged robbery suspect.
“During that struggle, at least one less-than-lethal device, a Taser, was deployed,” said Sgt. Barry Montgomery of the media relations office.
“However, at this time we do not know if that Taser struck the suspect,” he said.
The video does not show that, but apparently picks up as the man is pushed to the sidewalk as four officers grab his flailing limbs and his torso. As two
other officers push an intervening man away, the camera angle is blocked and does not detail exactly what happened.
The sound of a Taser is audible. Someone is then heard yelling, “Drop the gun,” right before shots are heard.
First one shot, and then four others in rapid succession.
At this point, the video becomes laden with F-bombs from incredulous witnesses who can’t believe what they’ve just seen.
It is not clear if Blackburn’s voice is also heard on the video. But many people start to yell that the man did not have a gun and was dead.
Several police then try to keep the crowd back.
More witnesses start yelling that the officer who fired his weapon was a black man and they start to taunt him as “a sell-out” and a “sell-out [expletive.]”
Officers had been sent to simultaneous robbery and battery calls, said Sgt. William Batista of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section.
One officer was slightly hurt in the confrontation with the suspect and was taken to a hospital for treatment of an unspecified injury.
The suspect was not identified pending notification of his next of kin.
A group gathered in Pershing Square Sunday night to protest the shooting.
“It’s awful. I mean you see it online, that’s where I saw it first. It’s ridiculous. The problem here is we have a police chief who doesn’t have any answers to what’s going on,” protester Sal Shama told CBS2/KCAL9’s Jasmine Viel.
The religious community is also speaking out. Pastor Wayne Gaddis, president of the Baptist Convention, President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, said he understands people’s pain and anger following these kind of shootings.
“We do not support police brutality,” Gaddis said. “But we do support the police department.”
Dr. Gaddis says he and two other local pastors are working together to improve relations between the community and police: “We’ve come a long way, but we have a mighty long way to go.”
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson and other L.A. civil rights leaders called on the Los Angeles Police Commission to hold a special hearing on the use of force by officers in Skid row encounters.
The group identified the man shot Sunday as “Africa.” Hutchinson wrote, “The killing again calls into serious question the policy, procedures and training officer’s use in dealing with homeless persons on Skid Row many of who have serious mental challenges.”
Ina Murphy, a friend of the deceased, told CBS2/KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo she will also be closely following the investigation. She told Fajardo the man who died lived on the streets there for about six months after leaving a mental hospital.
Police Commission President Steve Soboroff confirms the investigation will hinge on whether the man in the video reached for or grabbed the officer’s gun. He adds the District Attorney and Inspector General will both be investigating.
On Sunday evening, police said three officers fired at the man and also said at least one of the officers might have been wearing a body camera.
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, released the following statement Sunday. It read in part:
“Testimony and facts are still being collected and assessed. Until that investigation concludes, the LAPPL urges everyone to reserve their judgment as there is much to learn about the incident. In fact, audio heard on a video recording during the incident clearly suggests that the officers felt they were in life-threatening danger.”