US police shoot homeless man dead in Los Angeles
A VIDEO has captured the moment US police shot and killed a homeless man during an altercation at a homeless camp in central Los Angeles.
The graphic film shows a violent struggle between the man and several officers in the city’s Skid Row area.
Police say that three officers opened fire after the man tried to grab a gun from an officer.
Witnesses said the dead man was known as Africa and had been homeless after treatment for mental illness.
Skid Row has a large homeless population.
The LA police department said officers had been responding to reports of a robbery and had attempted to use a Taser to subdue the suspect but he had “continued fighting and resisting”.
No other gun was recovered at the scene, LA police commander Andrew Smith said.
Last year, highly publicised killings of black men sparked weeks of protests in the US.
Hours after the latest shooting, the hash tag #LAPDShooting was trending on Twitter in the US.
It is unclear from the video what exactly happened, the BBC’s Alastair Leithead reports from LA.
The video begins with a man swinging punches at four police officers in daylight, near the tents and cardboard of a pavement homeless camp. Two other officers run up to join their colleagues.
As the man is knocked to the ground, a woman can be seen picking up a fallen police baton and a voice appears to shout “Give me my stick! Give me my stick!”
Several police officers turn to tackle the woman, in the foreground of the video, and her detention partially obscures what is happening with the man on the ground.
A voice can be heard shouting “Drop the gun!” four times before five shots ring out.
The police officers step away from the suspect lying on the ground and nobody approaches the body again for one minute 13 seconds, by which time police reinforcements have arrived.
The man taking the video can be heard swearing as he records it.
After the shooting, he can be heard saying. “Ain’t nobody got no [obscenity] gun. I’m gonna record this [obscenity]… They just shot that man right here, man, they just shot that [obscenity] man right here, yeah.”
Commander Smith said three officers, including a sergeant, had fired their guns as they struggled on the ground for control of one of the police officer’s weapons.
He said the department was aware of the amateur video and would attempt to amplify its sound and pictures to establish exactly what had happened.
“The video is disturbing,” he told reporters. “It’s disturbing any time anyone loses their life. It’s a tragedy.”
The commander added that at least one of the police officers had been wearing a body camera.
According to an ABC News report, the three officers have placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the shooting.
Steve Soboroff, president of LA’s Police Commission, told the BBC it was important to investigate the facts before making any conclusions.
Witnesses told the Los Angeles Times that the man who died had been living on the street for four or five months.
Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, said he had told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a mental health facility.
People on Skid Row who knew him said he was not violent, ABC reports.
“What did he do?” said Steven Tugmon. “He wasn’t an aggravated person. He wasn’t mad all the time. He just had mental problems.”
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