LAPD chief promises thorough investigation into officer’s fatal shooting of knife-wielding manBy AP
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
LAPD chief promises thorough probe into shooting
LOS ANGELES — Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday promised a thorough, transparent investigation into an officer’s shooting of a knife-wielding man whose death sparked a protest in a poor immigrant neighborhood.
At a late-afternoon news conference, Beck said only 40 seconds went by between the time officers made contact with Guatemalan immigrant Manuel Jamines and the moment an officer shot him twice.
The Sunday shooting prompted demonstrations the following day near MacArthur Park, a densely packed neighborhood west of downtown populated with recent immigrants from Central America.
Four people were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor inciting a riot, and others threw rocks and bottles at police, slightly injuring three officers, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.
Beck said the Sunday incident started when someone flagged down three bicycle officers to tell them a man was threatening people with a knife.
The officers approached the suspect and told him in Spanish and English to put down the knife, Beck said. Instead, Jamines raised the knife above his head and lunged at Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the department.
Eyewitness accounts from six civilians, nine police personnel and two fire department staff indicate Hernandez fired twice “in immediate defense of life,” Beck said. Jamines, 37, died at the scene.
Investigators recovered a bloody, 6-inch knife at the scene but didn’t know where the blood came from.
“This was a very brief moment in time, just 40 seconds between first contact and the time of the shooting,” Beck said. “He rushed the officers with a knife so he’s controlling the timeframe. Sometimes officers can’t create time or distance.”
Beck said the timeline was based on preliminary interviews, and the department’s Force Investigation Division will conduct an exhaustive probe. The three officers involved in the shooting have been temporarily reassigned during the investigation.
The crowd that gathered at the scene Tuesday afternoon was peaceful but still angry. Jamines’ neighbors described him as drunk but not dangerous.
“Killing a drunk isn’t right,” said Jamines’ cousin Juan Jaminez, 38, a day laborer. He and others described Jamines as a friendly, hardworking man who liked to drink on the weekends but wasn’t violent.
Jamines had a wife and three children — ages 13, 6 and 8 — in his hometown of Mazatenango, Guatemala, his cousin said.
He came to the United States six years ago to find work as a day laborer and spent most of his time looking for jobs in the parking lot of the Home Depot a block away.
“The officer who did this should be subject to discipline and a thorough investigation,” said Juan Flores, 39, a cook at a downtown restaurant who knew Jamines. “We want to know, is he on vacation or is he fired?”
Flores said the officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue Jamines.
Beck said the officer involved in the shooting didn’t have a baton or stun gun with him. He said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons found in patrol cars.
On Tuesday evening, dozens of people lit prayer candles at the site where Jamines was killed.
Demonstrators had hung posters with Spanish slogans that said: “The people demand accountability,” ”No more murders,” and “The police murdered a day laborer and we demand justice.”
Juana Neri, 57, a Mexican immigrant housewife who lives nearby, pushed her grocery bag in a baby stroller past the corner where Jamines was killed.
“It’s bad, what the police did, but what’s worse is the silly stuff that people were doing here,” she said, referring to Monday’s violence. “We are not in our country, and with the problems that Hispanic immigrants have these days, it’s better not to cause problems.”
Lt. Andrew Neiman said Monday’s peaceful candlelight vigil escalated to violence because a group handing out fliers for the Revolutionary Communist Party rallied the crowd with a bullhorn until the police declared an unlawful assembly.
“They were antagonistic, vocal and derogatory to the police,” Neiman said. “They tie themselves to immigrants’ rights protests, and people who live there say they’re not from the community.”
A telephone listing for the Revolutionary Communist Party could not be found.
Beck said the brawling was caused by several factors.
“First, we understand this is an emotional issue and we need to get the facts out. Second, there’s the outside agitators. And finally, it was the third day of a three-day weekend and some people in the crowd had been drinking,” he said.
The police union issued a statement Tuesday calling the shooting a “tragic incident” and saying community activists were trying to stir up controversy.
“Getting drunk and threatening bystanders and then LAPD officers with a knife is dangerous and self-destructive in any language,” the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s statement said. “This was not and should not be a controversial shooting.”
MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash in which police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured. Police said it began with a group of “agitators” outside the park throwing objects at officers.
The embarrassing incident cost the city more than $13 million in lawsuit settlements. Police were retrained on crowd control, forming skirmish lines, using batons in a crowd and using extraction teams to identify and arrest violent demonstrators.
Tags: Arrests, California, Central America, Criminal Investigations, Guatemala, Latin America And Caribbean, Law Enforcement, Los Angeles, North America, Police, Protests And Demonstrations, United States, Violent Crime