Video Does Little to Calm Anger in Police Shooting

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Police Chief Charlie Beck Tuesday released security video of the chase that ended with the fatal police shooting of an 18-year-old man in South Los Angeles, but the move did little to satisfy activists who angrily shouted down the chief at a Police Commission meeting, demanding his ouster.

The video, which Beck said he released after consultation with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the District Attorney’s Office, shows Carnell Snell Jr. running with his left hand in a sweatshirt pocket, and at one point he removes his hand to reveal a handgun. He holds the gun at his side briefly, then tucks it in his waistband, turns and runs away from the camera, out of sight, with officers in pursuit.

The video does not show the actual shooting.

Beck said he decided to release the video to correct what he called competing accounts about Saturday’s shooting of Snell. He suggested that “dueling narratives” emerging about the shooting threatened to “further divide the community.”

The release of the tape came as the LAPD worked to quell protests sparked by the death of the black teenager, who was shot on 107th Street Saturday afternoon. The next day, police fatally shot another man in South L.A., a Latino. Beck said that suspect a replica gun at officers. The orange tip of the replica gun had been painted black to make it look real, the chief said.

Despite release of the video, anger still boiled over at a Police Commission meeting Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles, where activists repeatedly shouted at Beck as he tried to give an update to the panel.

One woman sneered as Beck tried to announce that department members are available to speak with members of Snell’s family.

“You’re a disgusting person,” the woman shouted at one point. “You’re a horrible leader. … You should quit for the good of the city.”

With order somewhat restored, Beck went on to decry the “amount of guns that are out on our streets.” He said 450 people have been shot so far this year in just four LAPD divisions, where more than 500 guns have been recovered.

“Handguns are far too prevalent,” Beck said. “… Until we address the core issue of violence in our communities … primarily young men with guns, we are going to be doomed to this cycle.”

Tensions later ramped up again, with the mother of Richard Risher, a man police fatally shot earlier this year in Watts, said she felt revenge on officers was the only option, saying Beck has so far failed to give her an adequate response about her son’s death.

“From today, (expletive) this protesting (expletive), I’m going to start taking your lives,” Lisa Simpson said.

Eddie H. of the Los Angeles Community Action Network attempted to put Simpson’s words into context, telling the commission that “when we cry out saying no more blood in the streets of our young men and women, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, we’re serious about this.”

“It’s getting to the point where we really do feel that the only way this is going to change is by revolution,” he said.

He added that he was not “advocating for violence by any stretch of the imagination,” but it would not surprise him if things do turn violent.

“To all who are in this room today, we all should be held accountable,” he said. “For you are complicit if you allow your voice to continue to be impotent while we are slaughtered in the streets … if you can’t see the hurt and pain that we experience on a daily basis — so we’re saying right now, stand up and be counted.”

During the meeting, about a dozen protesters turned their backs on the chief and police commissioners.

Beck later told reporters that he understands that Simpson “grieves, but Los Angeles police officers have a very dangerous job.”

“They are courageous people,” he said. “They want to make a difference in society and they want to do the right thing. Occasionally they fall short, but the vast majority of the time they do not.”

“To have somebody target an individual just because of their profession is certainly no better than targeting somebody because of their race,” he said.

Activists Tuesday also accused Beck of selectively releasing a video that showed Snell in a bad light, while refusing to release others.

“It (the video) does not negate what the public says,” Melina Abdullah, a member of Black Lives Matter, said. “You’re trying to assassinate the character of Carnell Snell after you assassinate his body.”

She added that if the police department has the “discretion to release that tape, you can release every tape” that members of the public have been asking for.

Activists have repeatedly asked the police department to release videos of use-of-force cases, as well as footage that provides more details as to what happened to Wakiesha Wilson, a woman who was found unconscious in her jail cell on Easter Sunday and later died at the hospital.

Beck said that releasing the video footage, which was captured by a business security camera and did not belong to the department, does not obligate him to release body and in-car digital camera footage belonging to the police department.

Police Commissioner Matt Johnson said efforts are underway to develop a system for deciding whether to release videos from incidents of police force.

Huntington Park Police Shoot, Wound Man In Commerce

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Huntington Park police officers on surveillance shot and wounded a man in Commerce when he approached their unmarked car, pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at an officer, authorities said April 15.

The officer involved shooting took place at 9:45 p.m. Friday, in the 2500 block of Leo Avenue, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen.

“Two Huntington Park police officers were conducting a surveillance at the location regarding a past murder that occurred in the city of Huntington Park,” Jansen said.

Both officers were sitting in an unmarked car when a suspect not related to the surveillance “approached the vehicle on the driver’s door and retrieved a handgun from his waistband. The officer on the driver’s side lowered the window as both officers identified themselves as police officers,” she said.

“Both officers fired their weapons at the suspect striking him multiple times in the upper torso,” Jansen said. His handgun was retrieved at the scene.

The suspect was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition, Jansen said.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives were assisting Huntington Park police with the investigation, she added.

Family Questions Police Shooting of 16-Year Old Son

February 18, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

Jose Mendez had his problems, admits the 16-year-old’s mother, Josefina Rizo.

He was in and out of trouble and a habitual runaway, but he didn’t deserve being shot and killed by police, she said.

At a protest rally last Friday in front of the Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Station, Rizo said police have not sufficiently explained why officers shot her son to death on Feb. 6. She told EGP she could not understand why she hadn’t been allowed to see her son’s body.

Lea este artículo en Español: Familia de Joven Muerto por la Policía de Los Ángeles Pide Justicia

According to the Los Angeles Police Dept. (LAPD), Mendez was driving a stolen vehicle when stopped at about 10:45pm on Feb. 6. Police said Mendez pulled into a residential driveway on 6th Street, west of Lorena Avenue, and that’s when he exited the vehicle and pointed a sawed-off shotgun at one of the officers.

Both officers immediately fired several rounds, fatally striking the suspect.

A loaded, 20-gauge shotgun with an illegally modified shortened barrel and altered stock was recovered at the scene, according to police.

“They should’ve hit him in a foot or an arm and then arrested him,” Rizo told EGP. “But I really don’t know what the police’s motive was for killing him,” she said.

Rizo, speaking in Spanish, told EGP it took authorities 12 hours to notify her of Jose’s death. One of Jose’s brothers broke the news over the phone to their father, Juan Mendez, who was working at the time.

The couple went to the Hollenbeck Police Station to get more information, she explained, but were only told the case is under investigation.

Josefina Rizo (left) and Juan Mendez (rigt) in front of the LAPD Hollenbeck Station demanding justice for their son. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Josefina Rizo (left) and Juan Mendez (rigt) in front of the LAPD Hollenbeck Station demanding justice for their son. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Rizo told EGP her son started running away from home at an early age: She’d call police, they’d bring him back and he would run away again, Rizo said. Jose dropped out of Roosevelt High School and started hanging out with gangs, and last month he was remanded by the Court to the Rancho San Antonio Boys Home, a center specializing in rehabilitating boys with behavioral, mental and addiction problems.

About a week before he was killed, however, Jose ran away from the Center and was hiding from authorities. His mother said he never went home, but she knew he was around the neighborhood.

Why he was on the run again is not clear.

Community activists and family members who joined in last week’s protest rally say Jose’s shooting illustrates LAPD’s lack of transparency in these types of cases. An attorney looking into the case said they will review video from cameras in the area to try to get more information on what went down that day.

Wearing t-shirts with Jose’s picture, protesters said they are tired of the spike in violence they see in their Boyle Heights neighborhood – both from gangs and the police.

“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” chanted protestors as they called for greater transparency in the case.

“We want to prevent the deaths of more young kids like my son,” Jose’s father said in Spanish.

Elizabeth Salas and Oscar Hernandez said they were close friends of Jose and devastated by the news of his death. On the verge of tears, they told EGP they were taking part in the protest to support his family, but also because shootings have become too routine in their neighborhoodr.

“We are just tired” of the violence, Salas said.

Sol Marquez, one of the protest organizers, said Jose’s case speaks to the lack of transparency for a lot of cases involving young people in the community.

“First they said it was an adult and then slowly they were changing the story, saying it was a teenager who got shot multiple times,” she said. “It is unacceptable and we shouldn’t let this happen.”

“If that’s what happened to him, what can we expect for the rest of us?” she demanded.
According to Hollenbeck police Capt. Martin Baeza, the two officers involved the shooting “feared for their lives” when the teen pointed a shotgun at them.

“I doubt very much—and this is just my opinion—that the officers knew his age, they just knew there was a man who was pointing a gun at them,” Baeza said. “The tragedy for me, and for [the] Los Angeles Police Department, is that we have so many young children involved in such a violent lifestyle.”

LAPD Media Relations Lieutenant John Jenal told EGP that the department’s policy is to “shoot to stop the threat” if an armed suspect’s actions makes the officer fear for his or another person’s life.

“It’s not like the movies where you shoot at a suspect’s hand to [make them] drop the weapon,” he said, explaining police officers are trained to shoot for the body mass, otherwise the suspect may get back at them.

“If he had a knife we’d use a taser gun or another method, but with a firearm it’s a different situation,” Jenal said. “We shoot to stop and we immediately request an ambulance” as part of the protocol, he said.

Lt. Elissa Fleak with the Coroner’s Office told EGP the delay in notifying Jose’s parents of his death was due to the length of time it takes to legally identify the body.

Jose was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. and the coroner received a call at 2:05am., she said. “He was identified by fingerprints that we sent to different offices,” such as the DMV, DHS, FBI and several state and government offices.

Fingerprint results came back at around 6 a.m., Fleak said.

Family members cannot identify the bodies at the coroner’s office, only at the mortuary, she added. The circumstances of the case required an autopsy to be performed before his body could be released to a mortuary, which did not occur until Feb. 11.

It could take up to six months to get the results, according to the coroner’s office.

Baeza said gang violence is up in the Hollenbeck jurisdiction and many of the perpetrators are young and unafraid.

“We see kids having guns [who] are not afraid of using them, and this is indicative of what happened [with Jose Mendez],” the captain told EGP.

According to Baeza, the officers in Mendez’ shooting were wearing body cameras and there is a digital in-car video recording of the incident and the information is under review,

Following department protocol, the two officers involved in Jose’s shooting have been taken off active duty until the investigation of the incident is complete, he said. At that time, a decision will made as to whether or not they can return to the field.

Baeza emphasized this is the Division’s first officer-involved shooting in 6-8 months.
The captain said he contacted organizers prior to Friday’s protest and urged them to instead organize a peace march as a response to the violence.

Carlos Montes, a member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, however, told EGP that a peace march can’t happen if police are unwilling to also accept responsibility, “because violence comes from all ends.”

On Wednesday, Jose Mendez’s was scheduled to be released to the family, who said burial services would be held Feb. 20.

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Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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