LOS ANGELES — Police Commission President Matt Johnson will attend a meeting at the National Action Network headquarters, 2828 W. Jefferson Blvd., Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. to hold a community conversation in the wake of recent shootings by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Protesters directed anger, harsh words and at times expletives toward the Los Angeles Police Department and Police Commission Oct. 4 following the shooting deaths this past weekend of Carnell Snell, a black man, and an unidentified Latino man.
The shootings followed other officer-involved shooting deaths of Reginald Thomas in Pasadena Sept. 30; Alfred Olango, a Ugandan man who was shot by police in El Cajon, near San Diego, Sept. 27; and the deaths of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Snell, 18, was shot by police after he got out of a vehicle and ran after police tried to stop the car which had paper license plates and they suspected was a stolen vehicle.
“I don’t care if he had a gun. I don’t care,” Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah, told a crowd standing outside the Police Commission meeting holding hands in a circle after forcing the commission to go into closed session early.
“What makes an 18-year-old feel like they have to have a gun and run away from the police,” she said. “He wasn’t shooting at them. It’s important that we don’t abandon brother Carnell because he wasn’t perfect. None of us is perfect.”
Police Chief Charlie Beck released a surveillance video from the scene of the Snell shooting showing Snell with a gun that he tucked into his waistband before running out of the camera frame.
The video’s release produced swift reaction from the commissioners, city officials, protesters and other members of the community.
As he expressed condolences to the Snell family in a statement, while expressing that he cared about the safety and health of the city’s police officers, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Any officer-involved shooting is a tragedy, with consequences that demand thoughtful consideration. The third party videotape evidence released today contributes to transparency in a case that has raised many hard questions.”
He said, “L.A. is laying a foundation: inviting new voices into the conversation, accelerating deployment of body-worn cameras, expanding officer training in de-escalation and alternatives to lethal force, and looking closely at new approaches and technologies that may save lives.
“My hope is that the decision to make this videotape public will be received on all sides as a step forward in strengthening that foundation,” he said.
But some members of the community, did not see things the same way, with some activists demanding the quick release of videotaped recordings of all officer-involved shootings.
“The quick release of the Snell slaying videotape within days after the shooting is the best argument against LAPD officials contention that tapes can’t be released immediately,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “Video tapes, whether they support or contradict the police version of a controversial shooting, can and must be released promptly to assure transparency and restore public trust in the impartiality and integrity of investigations.”
The Community Coalition also was critical of local officials in a statement released Oct. 4.
“We find the response from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Police Commission and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey regarding the number of fatal police shootings insufficient,” said Karren Lane, the coalition’s vice president of policy. “We call upon our elected leaders and the Los Angeles Police Department to adopt meaningful reforms that result in the timely, objective and transparent investigations of police misconduct to ensure black and Latinos are afforded equal protections under law,” Lane said.
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson also issued a statement on the Snell shooting.
“Any loss of life is tragic, and we grieve with the family during this difficult time,” Harris-Dawson said. “When a life is lost at the hands of the police, the family and the community deserve a swift investigation that is transparent and holds officers accountable for any possible wrongdoing. Reports, including the autopsy, need to be made available to the mayor, the Police Commission, and the family.”
The videotape was released following a discussion between Garcetti, Beck and Police Commission President Johnson.
Johnson outlined the ongoing tension between police and suspects they encounter out on the streets.
”In general, just because a suspect has a gun, is not in and of itself reason enough to use deadly force,” he said. “But, if an officer believes his life or others are in imminent danger, he has the right to use deadly force.
“That’s not just an LAPD policy,” Johnson said, “that’s a United States Supreme Court decision. Our officers do have a right to expect to go home at the end of the night, too.”
Johnson said the commission is trying to make lasting meaningful changes to the way L.A. is policed, and that those changes made sitting through tense commission meetings worthwhile.
“We are doing cutting edge work for the country,” he said. “What we do others will follow. We’re making communities safer, while continuing to keep our officers safe. If that means we have to endure some uncomfortable Tuesdays, then that’s ok with me.”
The meetings can, indeed, be uncomfortable. Lisa Simpson, the mother of Richard Risher, killed by police in July, attends the meetings faithfully, and often blasts Beck and members of the commission.
Some questioned her words at the Oct. 5 commission meeting, saying she threatened the life of police officers when she was quoted as saying,
“From today, (expletive) this protesting (expletive), I’m going to start taking your lives.”
On the phone with a Wave reporter, Simpson clarified her statements, saying, “I didn’t threaten the life of anyone. I said IF. If I go out there and take the life of two of your police officers, would we be even?”
She dismissed the accusations, saying “If they say I’m a terrorist for fighting for my son, then I guess that’s what I am.”
Police Commissioner Cynthia McLain-Hill, an African American, tried to talk to the protesters after the meeting became too disruptive, but many shouted her down, angry over the shootings and what they claimed was the fear they felt to even walk around their own neighborhoods for fear of the police.
The other South L.A. shooting occurred Oct. 2 at 45th Street and Ascot Avenue. Police say the unidentified victim had a toy gun with the orange tip that identifies toy weapons blackened to make it look like a real gun.
Eyewitness Tiffany Peterson says she plans to go to the scene daily to raise awareness about what happened. Peterson says she’ll take a group of people with her to make a statement because she fears for her life. Peterson says if police know the identity of the man, they should release it.
“Who’s his family? She asked. “What’s his name? They could at least release his face. The family needs closure, but I’m his family. I’m his family right now.
Carnell Snell’s funeral services are scheduled for Oct. 8 at noon at First AME Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd.