Los Angeles police chief Michel Moore has said he is “deeply concerned” after three people died after being shot or hit with a stun gun by Los Angeles police officers during a two day period at the start of the year.
On January 2 and 3, Los Angeles Police Department officers shot fatally two men, Takar Smith and Oscar Sanchez, in separate incidents. Officers accused Mr Smith of having a large knife when he was shot, while they accused Mr Sanchez of holding a large metal pole.
Also on January 3, LAPD officers English teacher Keenan Anderson multiple times with a stun gun after detaining him while making a traffic stop. Mr Anderson, the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, went into cardiac arrest and ultimately died in an area hospital.
“These cluster of events, while miles apart, deeply concern me,” Mr Moore said. “My commitment to the families is not just the condolences, though. It’s my commitment to ensure the greatest transparency as possible, as much as the law allows, to include the details of the investigation as well as the findings and my recommendations, eventually, regarding the actions of our people.”
Los Angeles’ new mayor Karen Bass echoed Mr Moore’s thoughts, saying she has “grave concerns” over the body camera footage released on Thursday.
“We must reduce the use of force overall, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive force,” Ms Bass, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We must also lead our city forward — finally — on the mental health crisis that has been allowed to grow, fester and cause so much harm to individual Angelenos, their families and our communities.”
The LAPD has a well-documented history of racism and brutality, including against people with mental health challenges.
Mr Smith’s wife called police after Mr Smith allegedly violated the terms restraining order. She said she warned police about Mr Smith’s mental health condition, but the responding officers never called one of the department’s specialized mental health teams to help handle the situation.
Police say that they encountered Mr Anderson, meanwhile, running in the road while responding to a crash at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards. Police ordered Mr Anderson to move to the sidewalk, but Mr Anderson did not comply and ran from the officer. Police then restrained him, with an officer at one point pressing his elbow into Mr Anderson’s neck.
During the struggle, Mr Anderson yelled “they’re trying to George Floyd me,” and “they’re trying to kill me.” He was hit with a taser multiple times and then transported to a hospital in Santa Monica. He died shortly thereafter.
Ms Bass praised Mr Moore for his decision to release the body camera footage of that and the two fatal shootings, which he did well in advance of the city’s 45-day deadline to release footage of use-of-force incidents. There was also bystander video circulating online of the incident involving Mr Anderson.
Investigations of all three deaths are underway.