Less than a day after a Los Angeles police officer shot and killed a homeless man in a struggle near the beach, chief Charlie Beck was questioning the need to use deadly force in the confrontation.
Amid tensions nationwide over police killings of unarmed black men, Beck said he was “very concerned” by the shooting and planned a community meeting Thursday night.
In this case, both the officer and the man he shot Tuesday night were black, a point Beck made to reporters.
At that same news conference Wednesday, Beck also said he has yet to see evidence that would justify the fatal shooting near Venice Beach.
“Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances at this point,” Beck said, though he also cautioned that his department’s investigation was just underway.
Department investigators have not interviewed the officer because he is on medication to treat a knee he hurt during the struggle, Beck said.
The union representing officers quickly criticized the chief’s remarks as premature and prejudicial.
In a written statement, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League called Beck “completely irresponsible” to publicly opine “without having all of the facts.” President Craig Lally said that by speaking out, Beck “essentially renders the investigation process void.”
Tuesday’s confrontation began late at night on a block lined with bars and restaurants when two officers responded to a 911 call saying the man, believed to be in his 20s, had been arguing with a bouncer who would not let him into a bar and was hassling passersby, police said.
The officers spoke to the man, who began walking away but then came back and began struggling with someone on the sidewalk, according to a police news release.
The officers tried to detain the man, who was shot during the struggle, police said.
The man died at a hospital. No weapon was recovered at the scene, police spokeswoman Liliana Preciado said.
On Wednesday, a small crowd of people shouted at police at the scene. Beck later noted that the officer and the homeless man were black. He said the department will hold a meeting in the neighbourhood Thursday.
The department was criticized after an officer fatally shot a homeless man in March on Skid Row, near downtown.
The officers in Tuesday’s shooting were not wearing body cameras, but police have surveillance footage from nearby stores that shows the events.
Neither police nor the coroner’s office had confirmed the dead man’s identity, though Preciado said a 911 caller and several witnesses identified him as one of the Venice area’s many transients.