VENICE — Angry residents lashed out at Los Angeles Police Department officials Thursday night at a community town hall meeting in response to the shooting death of an unarmed homeless man Tuesday night.
LAPD officials took probing questions from a long line of residents who filled the auditorium of Westminster Avenue Elementary School seeking answers about the death of Brendon Glenn while also calling for the city to take action to alleviate the homeless problem in Venice.
“One of the reasons the crowd is so angry is because they are seeing a lot of deflection from this group,” Venice resident Robert Newman told a panel of five LAPD officials. “We don’t want to center this issue on mental illness or homelessness; we are looking at a problem of police shooting an unarmed man. That is the problem here.
“Basically, this should be a conversation about a murder scene type of investigation and you guys have not said murder one time. Even Chief Beck said the shooting was uncalled for, but you are up here denying that,” Newman said to loud applause from most in the audience.
Another Venice resident, Elaine McComb, asked, “Has LAPD as an organization had enough training to stop certain police from wanting to shoot an unarmed black man? It seems like the problem really is that the police are afraid of black men and are shooting them to ease their fears.”
Deputy LAPD Chief Bea Girmala responded by saying, “We as an organization try to make sure that LAPD hires from a stand point of diversity so that we are representative of the community.”
McComb answered back by saying it isn’t a problem of diversity, it is a problem of police brutality and a problem of police being afraid of blacks.”
The LAPD panel of Inspector General Alex Bustamanate, Girmala, Police Commission President Steve Soberoff, Capt. Nicole Alberca and Officer Armand Carranza listened to question after question from angry residents and homeless advocates. “Every single use of force that is used by the department is referred to the district attorney’s office,” Bustamante told the audience.
“There is a district attorney [investigator] that shows up at the scene of each incident. It is the district attorney that makes the interpretation of whether there is a prosecution or not. The district attorney collects information from LAPD as well as from the inspector general’s office to help make those determinations.
“Currently, there are three cases with the district attorney’s office that involve wrongful use of force by LAPD officers,” Bustamante added.
Glenn was shot Tuesday night during a confrontation with police. He died hours later.
Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed concern about the shooting after reviewing surveillance video. Beck said he did not see the “extraordinary circumstances” that would have justified the use of force.
Beck’s comments quickly earned a rebuke from Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers. Lally called Beck’s comments “completely irresponsible” and said it is too early to suggest the shooting may have been improper.
“As the final trier of fact in the use-of-force investigation and disciplinary process, the premature decision by the chief essentially renders the investigation process void,” Lally said. “Additionally, by making his opinion public without having all of the facts, he influences the investigation for all parties involved, including his command officers and the public.
“As in the criminal justice system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We encourage everyone to reserve judgment until the investigation has run its course, and the facts are collected and assessed,” Lally said.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called on Beck to authorize a review of the videotape of the shooting by a panel of civil rights leaders “to determine whether [Glenn] posed an imminent threat to the officers.”
A review of the videotape by a civil rights leaders panel would be a first by a police department and civil rights leaders,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “It would be a bold step by LAPD Chief Beck to fulfill his pledge of complete transparency in the investigation of the slaying.”
Beck said the department is working with the District Attorney’s Office and the LAPD’s independent inspector general to investigate the shooting.
“We will expend all resources to find out the truth of what happened [Tuesday] night on Windward Avenue,” he said.
City News Service contributed to this story.