LAPD Cops Will Not Face Charges for Killing Unarmed Homeless Man
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Sergeant Chand Syed and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” when they shot and killed Keunang, 43, on March 1, 2015, in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, local prosecutors wrote in a November 9 memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The memo explained why the district attorney’s office was choosing not to charge the LAPD officers with an on-duty shooting, something that has not happened in Los Angeles since 2000, according to an LA Times analysis of officer-involved shootings.
Prosecutors point to video footage captured by Syed’s body camera that indicated, to them, that Keunang had a hold of another police officer’s holstered gun during a group struggle with Keunang.
That officer, rookie cop Joshua Volasgis, alerted other officers on the scene that Keunang was tugging at this gun. “He’s got my gun!” Volasgis yelled, according to the memo.
Keunang was “rapidly gaining control” of Volasgis’ gun, the 22-page memo said. Keunang was then hit with six bullets fired by accompanying officers.
“Keunang posed a high likelihood of killing officers and civilians at the very instant that he was shot,” the memo said.
The body camera footage mentioned in the memo has not been released to the public.
The assertion made by district attorney’s office, that Keunang had a hold of Volasgis’ holstered gun, is in line with reports by the LAPD and its inspector general, the LA Times reported.
While the body camera footage remains protected, video captured at the scene by a security camera and by an onlooker were released to the public, sparking protests in the city.
Josh Piovia-Scott, an attorney for Keunang’s family, said the prosecutors’ decision not to charge the officers was a “travesty of justice.”
“We had six heavily armed, trained officers and one unarmed homeless man,” he said, according to the LA Times. “Law enforcement officers are trained to de-escalate situations and to use deadly force — any force, but particularly deadly force — only as a last resort. That obviously did not happen.”
The encounter between LAPD and Keunang began when someone alerted police to an attempted robbery and assault, identifying Keunang as the suspect.
Upon arrival and questioning by the officers, Keunang became agitated and ignored the officers’ commands, according to the LAPD.
He was Tased three times during the tense back-and-forth. Upon the second Taser shot, Keunang began to swing his arms and lunged at Martinez, according to the district attorney’s memo.
Volasgis then approached as Keunang was Tased a third time.
At some point, Volasgis said he felt a tug at his gun. “He’s going for my gun! He’s going for my gun!” Volasgis told other officers, leading to a hail of gunfire aimed at Keunang.
Watch the video below: