Lead Story West Edition

Bean-bag device could have subdued man killed at mall

BALDWIN HILLS — A knife-wielding man shot and killed by police inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza April 10 could have been subdued with bean-bag bullets, Police Chief Charlie Beck said this week, but police on the scene killed him while waiting for a bean-bag gun to arrive.

A bean bag device would have been “the most appropriate tool for this,” Beck told the Police Commission April 17.

“It’s an unfortunate incident we would have liked to have been able to avoid, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get less-lethal [ammunition] in place in time to do that.”

A statement issued by the Los Angeles Police Department about the shooting said officers fired at 30-year-old Grechario T. Mack after he ran in the direction of mall patrons with the knife in his hand.

The LAPD statement said officers responded about 5:45 p.m April 10 to a report of a man with a knife at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Crenshaw boulevards.

According to the police, the man refused commands to drop the 15-inch knife which they state he was aggressively waving.

“The officers began to verbalize with the suspect and repeatedly commanded him to put the knife down,” the statement said. “The suspect was very agitated and it appeared that he was possibly under the influence or was going through a mental health crisis.”

The police allegedly ordered a non-lethal bean-bag device to arrive at the scene,  Beck told the Police Commission Tuesday.

The police statement claims that Mack then allegedly ran in the direction of mall patrons with the knife in hand at which time the officer-involved shooting occurred.

Mack was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:53 p.m., despite firefighters’ efforts to revive him.

LAPD officials identified the personnel involved in the shooting as Sgt. Ryan Lee and Officer Martin Robles of LAPD’s Southwest Division.

At a press conference held after Mack’s death, Mack’s mother, Catherine Walker, tearfully said, “He was schizophrenic, he had anxiety attacks. I felt as though they threw my baby aside and said he’s just another John Doe. He’s not a John Doe; he’s my baby.”

Attorney Nana Gyamfi, who regularly represents families in deadly force cases, said the incident was disturbing. “Police have a reckless disregard for black life and at worse intend to terrorize black people,” she said.

“When they shot Mr. Mack, they made no effort to clear the area. They shot at him and the bullets whizzed through the stores. That wouldn’t happen in Beverly Hills.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, police shot and killed 162 people in California last year. Half of the people shot by police did not have guns.

“I heard about the shooting 15 minutes after I left the mall,” said Eddie Stokes, who visits the mall regularly. “There seems to be different points of view about what occurred. I think they could have used Tasers or rubber bullets rather than using lethal force.”

Pausing, he added, “I feel the killing was unjustified. You have 16 to 20 cops on the scene and they can’t take away a knife from a black man but they will Taser a white man, no problem.’’

“They could have been more compassionate with the man, but I’m not familiar with police policies and procedures,” said a mall employee who wanted to remain anonymous. “I think they could have done more to discern his mental status.”

Maci Lee, who was waiting for his order in the food court, agreed. “They should have just Tased him. Instead, they shot him with an assault weapon.’’

Mack was shot in front of the TJ Maxx store at the mall. A TJ Maxx employee said, “I wasn’t here when it happened, but I heard he was the father of two girls. I think his getting shot and killed is very, very sad.”