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LAPD Officers Shot and Killed a Man on Skid Row in Broad Daylight Sunday

A Facebook video of the shooting quickly racked up millions of views.

by Matt Tinoco
Mar 2 2015, 3:30pm

Photo via Flickr user Neon Tommy

Los Angeles police shot and killed a man reportedly known locally as "Africa" while responding to calls in the heart of downtown Los Angeles's Skid Row on Sunday.

The incident was caught on a video uploaded to Facebook—already viewed over 6 million times—that shows several officers wrestling two people apart, handcuffing one, and shooting the other five times while he was on the ground.

Though the video does not reveal anything graphic, it certainly makes for disturbing viewing.

Officially, we still don't know what happened. The LAPD has not released the name of the victim, indicated how many shots were fired, nor many bullets hit the victim. LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told the LA Times two officers and a sergeant shot the victim. The LAPD's own "Force Investigation Division" is probing the shooting, and will return an official declaration of events after interviewing witnesses and the officers involved.

What we do know is that at around 11:30 AM Sunday, LAPD officers responded to several simultaneous calls about robbery and battery just outside one of the largest rescue missions in LA's skid row, as local radio outlet KPCC reported. One witness told the LA Times that when the officers arrived, they found two men fighting inside a tent. Officers then allegedly Tasered the man who was later shot, dragged him outside the tent, and attempted to restrain him.

This is about where the video starts, showing us the officers already using force to try and subdue the victim. We can hear a Taser firing, but don't know whether or not it stunned its intended target.

A few seconds later, we suddenly hear one of the officers shouting, "He's got my gun, he's got my gun!," followed by several repeated calls to "drop the gun."

Then five shots pierce through the city's soundscape, shocking bystanders, and prompting them to immediately start questioning police: "Why did y'all shoot that man?" one person asks.

Early eyewitness accounts, of course, differ. Some have the man grabbing an officer's gun, while others insist he was shot unarmed. (One witness who called himself Booker T. Washington told the LA Times that Africa "got shot over a tent.")

Either way, the fact remains that LAPD officers shot and killed a (possibly) homeless man while he was on the ground, surrounded by at least five cops.

Information on who exactly the victim was remains spotty. The LA Times reports that his peers and neighbors on Skid Row knew him only as "Africa." According to those who talked to him, he had just finished ten-year stint in a mental hospital, and had been living in a tent on Skid Row for the past four or five months.

In 2013, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shot and killed a homeless man underneath a Freeway overpass, after he brandished a stick at the deputies in a threatening manner. But the LA Times reports that there were no officer-involved shootings in downtown LA last year, and one so far this year prior to Sunday's incident.

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Update: Here are a couple of photos from the scene on Skid Row taken early Monday:

Photo by Matt Tinoco

Photo by Jamie Taete