Family files $20 million claim against Los Angeles in police shooting

By Dana Feldman

By Dana Feldman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Family members of a homeless man from Cameroon who was fatally shot by police during a videotaped encounter in the Skid Row section of Los Angeles has filed a $20 million wrongful death claim against the city, their attorneys said on Thursday. The March 1 shooting of 43-year-old Charly Keunang, who police say grabbed for an officer's holstered gun as officers tried to arrest him as a robbery suspect, sparked protests in Los Angeles and came as law enforcement agencies face scrutiny over the use of lethal force. Police said Keunang, who was living in a tent in Skid Row, was not carrying a weapon f his own during the fatal encounter. The $20 million claim submitted to the city late on Wednesday represents a required first step before a lawsuit. Keunang's mother, Heleine Tchayou, wept as she spoke in French through a translator at a news conference on Thursday in front of Los Angeles police headquarters. "He did not have to die! Charly was a thoughtful and caring son," she said. Video of the incident recorded by a bystander, which has been viewed millions of times online, shows Keunang swinging his arms wildly at officers before he is knocked to the pavement, and four officers struggle to restrain him. Someone in the video is heard repeatedly shouting: "Drop the gun!" and several gunshots ring out. "This was a cop-created killing in which six heavily-armed, highly-trained law enforcement officers initiated a conflict with an unarmed homeless man and then less than three minutes later, shot him six times in the chest, killing him as they held him down on the sidewalk," the family's claim said. In a letter to the District Attorney's Office, which is investigating the shooting, Keunang's family asked that body camera footage from any officer involved in the incident who was wearing such a device be released to the public. Representatives for the city attorney and the district attorney declined to comment on the claim and letter. Keunang was convicted of armed bank robbery and other charges in 2000. At the time, he was known under the name of a French man whose identity he stole. U.S. authorities tried to deport him but instead released him from prison when he completed his sentence in May 2014, after authorities in Cameroon failed to provide a travel document, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said last month. (Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)