LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and two officers were legally justified in the fatal shooting of a homeless man on Skid Row and will not face criminal charges, according to a document released Dec. 1 by the District Attorney’s Office.
According to a 22-page report prepared by the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division, Sgt. Chand Syed and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” on March 1, 2015, when they opened fire on 39-year-old Charly Keunang, who was known on Skid Row as “Africa.”
The shooting, a portion of which was captured on cell phone video and widely broadcast, was one of several officer-involved shootings that led to protests across the city.
Last February, the Los Angeles Police Commission found that all officers involved in the shooting had followed the department’s policies governing the use of deadly force, although one officer was determined to have violated tactical policies.
According to the District Attorney’s Office report, which was dated Nov. 9 and first obtained by the Los Angeles Times, police initially approached Keunang in response to a report that he had wielded a baseball bat while attempting to rob another person on Skid Row. When approached, Keunang refused to produce identification and disobeyed orders from officers, instead diving inside his tent, according to the report.
Officers stripped the tent away and deployed a Taser, with no apparent effect, leading to a struggle, during which Keunang “tried to grab [an officer’s] firearm from its holster while falling to the sidewalk,” according to the report.
As the struggle continued, the officer “felt his firearm being pulled from the holster by Keunang and shouted out ‘He’s got my gun!’ In response, Martinez fired his weapon once, then Torres and Syed each fired his weapon twice,” the report states.
Prosecutors concluded that “the abundance of physical and video evidence in this incident in fact establishes that the officers’ reasonable assessments of the threat posed by Keunang were as grave and imminent as the officers perceived them to be. … Keunang posed a high likelihood of killing officers and civilians at the very instant that he was shot. We conclude that Sergeant Syed and Officers Martinez and Torres were justified in using deadly force against Leundeu Keunang.”
Keunang’s parents and sister filed a lawsuit against the city and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in August in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations.
The suit is pending.