VENICE — Another controversial shooting death of a homeless black man, this time in Venice, has a local civil rights group calling for a federal investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network held a press conference Wednesday afternoon outside LAPD headquarters downtown and called on Mayor Eric Garcetti to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into the patterns and practices of the police department.
The investigation should examine excessive force, racial profiling, discriminatory harassment and unlawful stops, searches and arrests, the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the network chapter, said.
“The National Action Network is outraged by the death of another unarmed African-American homeless man by the Los Angeles Police Department,” Tulloss said. “We need an independent investigation by the Justice Department to help reform … our shoot-and-kill-unarmed-civilians-first, we’ll-ask-questions-later police department.”
The shooting occurred Tuesday around 11:30 p.m. on Windward Avenue just west of Pacific Avenue.
Police said two officers initially responded to a call about a person harassing people on Windward Avenue. They spoke briefly to the suspect, who walked away toward the boardwalk, police said.
The officers returned to their car but then saw the suspect struggling with someone — apparently a bouncer at the Townhouse bar — on the sidewalk.
The officers approached and a struggle ensued, ending with the shooting.
It’s unclear how many shots were fired. The suspect died at a hospital.
The shooting victim’s name was not immediately released, but acquaintances identified him as 29-year-old Brendon Glenn, who came from New York City and struggled with drugs and alcohol. Glenn had sought shelter and assistance at the Teen Project’s Venice PAD homeless center, according to the center’s Timothy Pardue.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and the union representing the LAPD rank-and-file found themselves deeply at odds over shooting, with the union livid over Beck’s suggestion that it was excessive.
Beck said Wednesday after seeing video footage of the incident that he was “very concerned” about the shooting, adding that it generally takes “extraordinary circumstances” for police to shoot an unarmed person, and it’s unclear if those circumstances existed in the shooting.
The chief said Los Angeles Police Department investigators had not yet interviewed the officer who opened fire on the suspect because he was still on medication after being treated for a knee injury suffered in the altercation. The officer who allegedly shot Glenn also is black.
“I don’t know what was in the officer’s mind,” Beck said. “We expect to know more [Thursday]. At this point, it appears that it was a physical altercation.”
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, called Beck’s comments “completely irresponsible” and said it is too early to suggest the shooting may have been improper.
“As the final trier of fact in the use-of-force investigation and disciplinary process, the premature decision by the chief essentially renders the investigation process void,” Lally said.
“Additionally, by making his opinion public without having all of the facts, he influences the investigation for all parties involved, including his command officers and the public.
“As in the criminal justice system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We encourage everyone to reserve judgment until the investigation has run its course, and the facts are collected and assessed,” Lally said.
Beck said the department is working with the District Attorney’s Office and the LAPD’s independent inspector general to investigate the shooting.
“We will expend all resources to find out the truth of what happened last night on Windward Avenue,” he said.
Beck said a town hall meeting will be held Thursday night with LAPD officials and Inspector General Alexander Bustamante to discuss the shooting with residents. City Councilman Mike Bonin is also expected to attend the meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at Westminster Avenue Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
The reaction of Venice residents was hard to predict; many of them deeply resent the homeless population in their community.
People who knew Glenn told the Los Angeles Times that he was a kind man who constantly told people he loved them. He was known for his “hand hug” — grabbing hold of someone’s hand before saying goodbye. Glenn treated his dog, a black Labrador mix named Dozer, like “his baby,” one man told the newspaper.
But they acknowledged he also had his struggles, The Times reported.
“He was a drinker. He has a drinking problem,” Allison Holden, 23, who is also homeless, told The Times. “But we all have problems.”