Lead Story West Edition

Cops violated policy in fatal mall shooting, panel says

LOS ANGELES — The Police Commission found that two officers who opened fire on a knife-wielding man at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza nearly a year ago, ruling that at least one bullet fired by each of them in the fatal shooting was out of department policy.

Grechario Mack, 30, of Los Angeles, died at the scene of the April 10 shooting at the mall at Martin Luther King Jr. and Crenshaw boulevards.

Although LAPD Chief Michel Moore wrote in a report given to the commission March 19 that be believed all of the shots fired were fully within policy, the commissioners voted unanimously that the last of five shots fired by a sergeant was a lethal use of force out of policy, and voted 3-2 that the last of nine shots fired by an officer was out of policy.

Mack’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in January.

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.”

LAPD officials previously identified the personnel involved in the shooting as Sgt. Ryan Lee and Officer Martin Robles of the LAPD’s Southwest Division, although the version of Moore’s report released to the public had all of the names redacted.

Officers were sent to the scene on a report of a man brandishing a large knife, according to Moore’s report. Mack did not respond to commands to drop the knife, and officers feared he presented a threat to them and the mall’s patrons before they opened fire on him, the report says.

Shortly after the shooting, then-Police Chief Charlie Beck said a bean-bag device would have been the most appropriate tool for police to have used in the case.

“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,” Beck told the Police Commission a week after the shooting.

Attorney Nana Gyamfi, who often represents families in deadly force cases, said the mall 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 Moore’s report, the final shots came after initial rounds struck Mack and he fell to the ground but was trying to get back up.

The commission’s ruling is only an advisory to Moore, who will determine discipline for the officers involved in the shooting.