Homeless man shot dead by police was 'reaching for officer's gun', claims LAPD chief

This is the latest in a series of incidents across the United States where the use of deadly force by police departments against people on the street has drawn intense scrutiny

The authorities in Los Angeles tonight defended three police officers involved in the killing of a homeless man on Skid Row on Sunday.

Public dismay over the shooting was ignited after a passer-by captured it on his smartphone and posted the video on Facebook. The footage, which went viral on social media, showed a struggle and the man being forced to the ground.

The incident is just the latest in a series across the United States where the use of deadly force by police against people on the streets has drawn intense scrutiny.

Questions are still being asked about the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer by a police officer. 

Los Angeles Police Commissioner, Charlie Beck, said at a press conference that a review had been launched while at the same time indicating his preliminary belief that the officers had acted appropriately to defend themselves. 

“The man forcibly grabbed one of the officers’ holstered pistols,” Mr Beck said, adding: “This investigation is ongoing.”

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The video footage shows a struggle and the man being forced to the ground but it is not clear enough to show exactly who opened fire or why

Mr Beck asked that the public “not rush to judgement” either as regards the actions of the officers or the actions of the deceased. He hinted that the victim was suffering from mental illness.

President Barack Obama announced the findings of a White House task force into police practices and racial prejudice in police ranks and declared it was time for police departments across the country to take steps to rebuild trust with minority communities. 

An investigation by the Justice Department into the Ferguson case due to be released this week is expected to conclude that the city’s police department has violated the civil rights of minority citizens in the city.

The Skid Row video first posted on social media showed the officers trying to tackle the homeless man. There is the sound of a Taser stun gun being fired.  Then as the man is pushed to the ground a voice is heard to yell: “Drop the gun.” Then multiple shots are fired. 

The victim, a regular presence on Skid Row, went by the nickname “Africa”. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The altercation began after the police officers responded to a robbery call near by.

The city of Cleveland asserted in court documents yesterday that a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead outside a recreation centre in November had himself to blame. The city is being blamed for the killing of the boy who was holding a toy gun when he was shot.

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