'Disturbing' Video: Los Angeles Police Fatally Shoot Homeless, Mentally Ill Man, Authorities Promise 'Thorough' Investigation

( [email protected] ) Mar 02, 2015 11:43 AM EST
The LAPD has vowed to conduct a "thorough investigation" regarding the fatal police shooting of a homeless man known as "Africa."
''It’s sad. There’s no justification to take somebody’s life,'' said Dennis Horne of the killing. Photo: Daily Surge

The fatal shooting of a homeless man known as "Africa" by Los Angeles Police was reportedly caught on video in disturbing detail, enraging a nation acutely sensitive to police brutality following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

According to a report from the L.A. Times, officers assigned to the LAPD's Central Division and Safer Cities Initiative, which focuses on Skid Row, responded to the location on Sunday after receiving a 911 call reporting a possible robbery.

When the officers approached the man, who is believed to have been homeless, he began "fighting and physically resisting the officers," according to a police report.

Despite officer's attempts to take the man into custody, even using a Taser at one point, the man continued to throw punches and resist arrest.

In video footage of the incident, taken by a bystander and uploaded to Facebook, one officer drops his nightstick, which a woman picks up off the ground. Two officers are seen pushing her to the ground to restrain her. Meanwhile, several officers fight the man to the ground, while at least one officer can be heard repeatedly shouting, "Drop the gun."

"At some point in there, a struggle over one of the officer's weapons occurred," Cmdr. Andrew Smith told the AFP. "At that point an officer-involved shooting happened."

Two officers and a sergeant fired at the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Although it is not clear how many times the officers fired, at least five shots can be heard on the recorded video.

"Of course we're aware of the video," Smith told the AFP. "Any video that shows someone losing their life in an altercation with police is going to be disturbing. It's disturbing for police officers to watch."

"It's always tragic when there's a loss of life in one of these situations," he continued. "It's not an incident taken lightly by any police officer. But we are committed to everyone involved and to the public to conduct a thorough and complete investigation."

According to Skid Row residents, "Africa" had spent 10 years at a mental facility before moving into the area four or five months ago.  Police had reportedly asked him multiple times to dismantle his tent, as people are permitted to sleep in tents on Skid Row at night as long as they take them down during the day.

"This man got shot over a tent," a resident only known as "Booker T. Washington" said.

Dennis Horne, 29, told the AFP that Africa had been fighting with someone else in his tent when police arrived. Horne added that because Africa refused to obey a police order to come out of his tent, officers were force to use a Taser to drag him out before the fight ensued.  

"It's sad," Horne said. "There's no justification to take somebody's life."

Says sociologist Andrea Reins, "At the end of the day, a homeless man with mental issues is dead at the hands of several police officers who likely could have controlled the situation. That sends a very sad, sobering message to U.S. citizens who are already sore from last year's incidents with Eric Garner and Mike Brown," she told the Gospel Herald.

Many on Twitter echoed Ms. Rein's comment, writing "Here we go. Again," and "When will this end??."

As the LAPD, the independent inspector general and the district attorney's office begin an investigation to see if the use of force was properly deployed, a significant factor will be whether Africa attempted to grab the officer's gun or not.

"To me, that would be the only explanation that something would happen that quickly," Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said. "It escalated. It escalated right in front of our eyes...these situations are just so horrific."

He added, "Of course I would encourage people not to rush to judgment. It's not fair to anybody. It's not fair to the family of the victim or the victim or the officers," he said. "We'll find out what happened."