SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A 20-year-old man was shot and killed by Los Angeles police here and friends of the victim are disputing police accounts.
On Dec. 18, 20-year-old Ryan Joseph was shot and killed after police responded to the call of a man with a gun in his waistband in the 6000 block of South Western Avenue at 8:24 p.m.
Investigators say officers from the Metropolitan Division chased the suspect who they say then produced a gun and that officers shot him. He was hit multiple times and taken to a local hospital where he died.
Police said they found a 9-millimeter gun at the scene and that the force investigation division is on the case.
The case isn’t so cut and dry for family and friends of Joseph. His cousin’s husband, the Rev. James Perkins of True Friendship Baptist Church in Los Angeles, said Joseph’s family is dealing with the situation as best they can, considering the circumstances.
He said Joseph had big dreams, and that he was personable and made friends easily. Perkins said the young man was on his way to doing something really great and that even his oldest sibling looked up to him.
Perkins said he understood that officers were looking for a robbery suspect, and that his wife’s cousin was not robbing anyone. He lived in the housing complex where the robbery suspect lived.
Family friend Doug Nelson, a pastor at McCoy Memorial Baptist Church, described Joseph as an intelligent, intellectually curious individual who attended his Sunday school class.
Nelson said that Joseph was unarmed, and that he was simply walking across the street to talk with his 15-year-old cousin when police arrived and shot him.
A candlelight vigil in memory of Joseph took place Dec. 19 with nearly 100 people showing up to support his family and remember Joseph. Perkins said eyewitness accounts of the shooting contradict police version of events.
“He wasn’t facing police when he was shot,” Perkins said. “He was shot in the back. Five or six people said the same exact thing.
“He lived in the complex. He had gone out and a few minutes later, his mother heard four gunshots. When she went to see what was going on, she saw him lying in the street. Police wouldn’t let her go to him. He was not a suspect in the area,” Perkins said.
Perkins also said that Joseph graduated from high school when he was 16, that he attended church regularly, and had a stable family life. His mom was feeling the pain of his death, he said.
“He and his mom were close. She’s been really hurt by the situation, and especially by the fact that [police] are not talking to her,” Perkins said.
The solution to preventing shootings like this include having police come out into the community to do more than conduct investigations, he said.
“If you don’t get to know any of us, how can you be able to serve us and protect us?” Perkins asked. “Police need to be sensitive to people in the community. We need to get past the anxieties seen in the media, in the major venues of news. There’s too little good stuff. [The community] needs to work together to make things safe for all of us,” Perkins said.
Nelson said no funeral arrangements have been made yet, since Joseph’s body has not been released from the coroner’s office. L.A. County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said the autopsy is expected to take place Dec. 22, and that afterward Joseph’s body will be released to the mortuary of the family’s choosing.