Lethal force used by three Los Angeles police officers, which led to the death of a homeless Black man have been justified by a district court.
Three Los Angeles police officers who fatally shot a homeless Black man on Skid Row last year will not face criminal charges because they acted in self-defense, according to a report released Thursday by the district attorney, ABC News reports.
Prosecutors determined that the shooting of Charly “Africa” Keunang was justified because he grabbed a rookie officer’s gun during a struggle that ended when he was shot five times March 1, 2015.
“The officers’ reasonable assessments of the threat posed by the homeless Black man were as grave and imminent as the officers perceived,” prosecutors wrote in a memo. “Keunang posed a high likelihood of killing officers and civilians at the very instant that he was shot.”
Officers were responding to reports that Keunang, 43, a Cameroon national, had threatened another man living on the street in the section of the city teeming with homeless people.
Video of the shooting by a bystander was viewed millions of times online and prompted protests in the city and drew comparisons with the deaths of other Black men killed by officers in the U.S.
A lawyer representing Keunang’s family in a $20 million lawsuit disputed that the homeless Black man ever had hold of an officer’s gun. Attorney Joshua Piovia-Scott said the officers who were trained to de-escalate conflicts instead initiated a confrontation that led to the killing.
Los Angeles cops cleared in death of homeless black man https://t.co/yLL1Fa0htw
— The Modesto Bee (@modbee) December 2, 2016
“I just think that’s a travesty of justice and just a weak decision on behalf of law enforcement authorities,” Piovia-Scott said of the decision not to prosecute any officers. “Unfortunately, it’s something we’ve seen time and time again in this scourge of police killings of unarmed black men we’ve had in this country.”
The Police Commission had previously cleared officers of the shooting, though it found one officer’s tactics violated policy. It did not publicly reveal what policy was violated.
A 22-page report on the incident, released on Thursday, concluded the officers “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” in their deadly encounter with 39-year-old Charley Leundeu Keunang, known by the street name of Africa, reported by the Reuters.
The findings by the D.A.’s justice system integrity division clears the policemen – Sergeant Chand Syed and officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres – who opened fire on the homeless Black man when he tried to grab a fourth officer’s gun.
Police confronted the man when they responded to a report of an attempted robbery outside a Union Rescue Mission in the heart of L.A.’s Skid Row, a square-mile downtown area with one of the highest concentrations of homeless people in the United States.
The mission’s director said in the aftermath of the March 1, 2015, shooting that Keunang had a history of violent, erratic behavior.
Video footage of the incident, which went viral on the Internet, highlighted the often volatile interactions between law enforcement and the mentally ill and helped fuel a national debate over police tactics. It also drew calls for reform from local civil rights activists.
But the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office report concluded that the three officers under review in the shooting were “justified in using deadly force.”
“We are closing our file and will take no further action in this matter,” it added.
Among other findings, the report said that at the instant he was shot, Keunang had “virtually removed” a service weapon from the holster of a fourth officer as they struggled on the ground, and “the barrel was pointing in the direction of Sergeant Syed and the crowd gathering behind him.”
While the report did not delve into Keunang’s background, a law enforcement source and public records disclosed he was a convicted bank robber who had been released from federal prison in 2014.
Immigration officials further revealed that U.S. authorities had sought to deport Keunang to his home country of Cameroon in 2013, but the government there failed to provide a necessary travel document before he was freed from prison.
Unfortunately nowadays being a well-provided white man can almost 100% guarantee your safety no matter what you are doing and where you happen to be. But the same principle doesn’t apply to Blacks, neither do justice and democracy. Their lives seem to be full of constant challenge and the absence of some certain level of wealth can turn out to be a death sentence.