A video posted on social media Sunday appeared to show a homeless man being shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers earlier in the day.
The video, shot on a cell phone and posted on Facebook, appears to show the man as he grappled with police on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. The video shows four officers struggling with the man near a curb when the clicking of what sounds like a stun gun is heard and then about five shots ring out.
Someone is heard yelling, “Drop the gun,” right before the shots are heard. Onlookers then accost the officers at the scene. The video was apparently posted online within hours of the death by a man named Anthony Blackburn.
The shooting happened at around noon Sunday afternoon after officers responded to simultaneous robbery and battering calls, police spokesman Sgt. William Batista told KTTV.
Police said when responding officers approached the man, he did not respond to orders, and they quickly had to upgrade to deadly force.
“During that altercation, at least one less than lethal device was deployed, a Taser, however at this time we still do not know if that Taser did strike the suspect,” said LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery. “After that the struggle continued and an officer involved shooting occurred.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that witnesses identified the man by his street name, Africa. One witness said the man had been fighting with someone else in his tent when police arrived. That witnesses said officers dragged the victim out of the tent before he began fighting. Other witnesses said the man punched and kicked the officers before reaching for their service weapons.
“He didn’t have no weapon, they just shot him,” a witness, Yolanda Young, told KTTV. “They could have just wrestled him down and took him to jail, but they shot him five times. ”
“When they couldn’t apprehend him, that’s when they backed up and just started shooting. Pow, pow, pow, pow. There was five of them. They could have apprehended him,” added another witness, Ceola Waddell.
Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the shooting, including the suspect’s mental health, were at the center of the investigation. A woman who lives in an apartment nearby said that the victim had lived on Skid Row for between four and five months after being released from a mental health facility. Another local resident told the paper that police had repeatedly come by to ask “Africa” to take down his tent during the daylight hours, as required by a court agreement.
The shooting was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, its independent inspector general, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.