LYNWOOD — The shooting of an armed man by sheriff’s deputies here Dec. 12 is still being investigated while Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials sent out a call for anyone who videotaped the incident to contact them.
Nicholas Robertson was shot repeatedly as he walked away from two sheriff’s deputies from the Century Sheriff’s Station near the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. He died at the scene.
A video that was released the day of the shooting prompted outrage in the black community, as it showed Robertson walking away from the officers when they began shooting at him. The shooting continued even after Robertson fell to the ground and began to crawl.
Najee Ali, the political director of the National Action Network (NAN), originally called the shooting a “cold-blooded execution,” but softened his rhetoric after seeing another video of the shooting that showed a gun in Robertson’s hand.
The Sheriff’s Department claimed Robertson had fired shots into the air and aimed the gun at the officers before they started shooting. Officials and witnesses also reported that the officers had ordered him to drop his gun before he began walking away.
“It was disturbing and troubling watching a man getting shot in the back and then shot again as he crawled to his death,” Ali said. “But we’re urging the community to stay calm and let the investigation take its course, since he did have a gun and witnesses said there were others in the area who could have been in danger.”
At a Dec. 13 news conference held by the Sheriff’s Department, Rev. K.W. Tulloss, NAN’s western regional director, asked Sheriff Jim McDonnell to call for a second investigation by an independent agency, “for the sake of the family and those who do not have much trust in the police.”
Tulloss said McDonnell agreed to his request.
Tulloss described the first video as “alarming” and “a little excessive,” but said he wants to avoid jumping to conclusions until further information is available.
“It’s a tricky case where we can’t be outraged because he was walking down the street with a gun,” Tulloss said.
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson compared the incident to the 2014 shooting of Lacquan McDonald in Chicago, where the suspect was on the ground but police continued to shoot. He has called for a full probe by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether the officers used unnecessary force.
The Sheriff’s Department claimed that Robertson was a threat to civilians in the nearby shopping district along Long Beach Boulevard.
The first 911 call regarding Robertson was received at 10:55 a.m. Dec. 12.
Robertson reportedly fired six to seven shots into the air in a nearby residential area, which prompted the first of at least six 911 calls.
He began walking, still carrying the weapon, which officials said was a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Robertson walked south on Long Beach Boulevard, acting oddly and yelling out, according to witnesses, and briefly spent time at a car wash and pizza place before deputies arrived at the scene. They located Robertson in front of a busy gas station, where the shooting occurred.
Hutchinson said the officers’ response was more hazardous to passers-by, describing their actions as “reckless endangerment.”
“If deputies had shot that many times at a prone dog there would be global furor from animal rights advocates and everyone else,” Hutchinson said in an email statement.
A total of 33 shots were fired by the two deputies, who were not identified.
One deputy has been with the department for a year, the other for about 18 months, sheriff’s Capt. Steve Katz said, adding that both have been re-assigned from field duty.
McDonnell asked anyone who might have cell phone video of the incident to share it with investigators, and sheriff’s homicide detectives asked anyone with any information regarding the shooting to call them at (323) 890-5500.
City News Service contributed to this story.