Lead Story Local News West Edition

LAPD’s silence angers activists

LOS ANGELES — Black community activists are once again outraged by the conduct of Los Angeles Police Department officials, who have failed to identify the victim of a fatal police shooting a week after the incident.

The woman, who may have just committed an armed robbery with a knife, was shot in an alley in Baldwin Hills Aug. 12. But that’s about all the information the LAPD has released on the shooting one week later, angering residents who are already unhappy with the police.

“It’s 2015. You can’t shoot somebody and just be quiet about it,” said Jasmyne Cannick, a political commentator and media relations consultant. “LAPD knows they can’t do that. They know Black Lives Matter and other activist groups are paying attention to this stuff.”

Cannick, who also is a publicist for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, says the department needs to get with the times.

“This is not the Daryl Gates era where you can do whatever you want and not be held accountable,” she added. “Chief Charlie Beck has a city watching everything he does. When someone is killed, the community wants answers.”

Indeed, demonstrators have taken to the streets, the media and the Aug. 18 Los Angeles Police Commission meeting to voice their concerns.

For the second week in a row, community members forced the Police Commission to an early recess when members of Black Lives Matter and other groups became disorderly.

In a call-and-respond chant, several activists shouted “Say her name” followed by “Redel Jones.” The information is based on a blog written by Cannick, which leaked details from a report by the department’s Force Investigation Division.

Throughout the meeting, activists — who wore purple in honor of the victim who was described as wearing a purple scarf — referred to the woman as “Redel Jones” and exchanged heated words with the commissioners

“We’re going to get justice or else,” said Jasmine Richards from the Pasadena chapter of Black Lives Matter. “I’m tired of playing with you guys. This is a letter to you from black folks, the hood, people from the ghetto — take it how you want to, but you’re not going to rest easy tonight.”

The LAPD has declined to comment or verify the leaked information due to the ongoing investigation, LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said.

All the department’s media relations office has released about the shooting is the following information:

• The victim, believed to be in her 30s, was shot after officers were dispatched to the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive on a robbery report at about 1:40 p.m. Aug. 12.

• Around 2 p.m., officers saw a woman matching the description of the suspect in an alley west of Marlton Avenue.

• A Taser was deployed before the shooting and the woman was pronounced dead after the officers tried to detain the suspect.

Pastor Cue Jn Marie emphatically criticizes the actions of the Los Angeles Police Department over the fatal shooting of a woman Aug. 12 in a Baldwin Hills alley during the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Aug. 18. (Photo by Gary McCarthy)
Pastor Cue Jn Marie emphatically criticizes the actions of the Los Angeles Police Department over the fatal shooting of a woman Aug. 12 in a Baldwin Hills alley during the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Aug. 18. (Photo by Gary McCarthy)

“It’s a really tight-knit community,” said Melina Abdullah, a leading activist for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “People are outraged and weren’t expecting something like this to happen.”

There has been so little media coverage on this shooting, Abdullah said, that some resident who live near the alley did not know it had occurred.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, held a press conference Aug. 14 near the shooting scene and urged the department to quickly explain why the shooting happened and if other tactics could have been deployed.

The day after the shooting, an eyewitness gave the Los Angeles Times a conflicting account of what happened in the alley.

Courtyana Franklin, 21, claimed the victim was being chased by police officers with guns drawn before the officers fired.

In the article, Franklin said she witnessed the shooting through a side mirror and rear window of her vehicle, which was parked in an alley near Marlton Avenue and Santo Tomas Drive.

“I do know for a fact she was not charging at them,” Franklin said of the dead woman. “Those police were running. They were not trying to get away from her.”

Cmdr. Andy Smith of the department told the newspaper that Franklin’s account was at odds with the initial investigation into the shooting, though he did say officers chased the woman down the alley.

Smith said investigators had spoken with at least one other witness and wanted to interview Franklin to find out what she saw. He added that police are seeking any video evidence that might exist, though officers were not wearing body cameras and it was unclear what was captured by their patrol car cameras.

In the department’s defense for withholding basic information to the public, Smith told The Times releasing details about an investigation too early could taint the statements of other witnesses or otherwise harm the case.

Yet, critics are not satisfied with LAPD’s investigation procedures.

“The LAPD’s failure to release on a timely basis of the name of the woman and the result of the autopsy report on her shooting belies the claim of the LAPD that it always strives for a prompt, transparent, impartial investigation,”  Hutchinson said via email to The Wave.

As Hutchinson sees it, withholding such information “leaves the LAPD wide open to suspicion of secrecy at worst and compromising an objective investigation at the best.”

Cannick, who has kept a watchful eye on the department for years, agrees.

“You can’t pay lip service to a community,” she said. “There are all these talks about transparency, re-training officers, going above and beyond. But then, when something like this happens, where is the transparency and communication?”