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LAPD Says Bodycam Footage Reveals 'Unique Perspective' on Skid Row Shooting

But the footage obtained from the officer-mounted devices wont be released because of an ongoing investigation, LA Police chief Charlie Beck said.

by VICE News
Mar 3 2015, 6:12pm

Photo via Facebook/Anthony Blackburn

VICE News is closely watching policing in America. Check out the Officer Involved blog here.

The Los Angeles Police Department says that bodycam footage from two of the officers involved in a deadly shooting in LA's Skid Row neighborhood on Sunday adds a "unique perspective" to the fatal altercation that has captured nationwide attention after cell phone video of the incident emerged online this weekend.

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said that the bodycam footage will be included in three ongoing investigations into the shooting, and cannot be released until those probes are completed. Beck said he has seen the footage, but did not reveal what was on the tape.

"At the end of the investigation into this officer involved shooting ... we will release the complete investigation through the inspector general's office," Beck told reporters Monday. "If there is a criminal proceeding in this or if there's a civil proceeding in this, we will make all evidence available through those proceedings."

Separate videos of the incident captured by witnesses and on CCTV security camera have since been posted online and viewed by millions. The man's name has not been officially released, but witnesses say they know him as "Africa," a homeless man living on LA's Skid Row, where drug use and mental illness is rife.

In one cell phone video of the incident posted online, someone is repeatedly heard shouting "drop the gun," and seconds later, five shots ring out.

The man was later confirmed dead at a local hospital, according to police. A coroner's official said the man was 39-years-old.

Authorities said in a press conference Monday that the incident occurred when officers responded to a 911 call about a robbery in the area. The emergency caller identified Africa as the suspected robber, and police followed Africa to Skid Row where he attempted to climb into a tent set up on the pavement. The tussle began as officers pulled the tent away, police said.

On Monday police said that officers attempted to use a Taser to subdue the man, and they all fell onto the pavement. While on the ground, the man allegedly tried to snatch a probationary officer's gun, which, in an odd twist, jammed and became inoperable during the struggle Commander Andrew Smith told reporters. The move prompted officers to open fire on the man.

"While on the ground, the suspect and officers struggled over one of the officer's handguns and then an officer involved shooting occurred," an earlier police statement said.

ABC7 reports that three police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the incident. It's believed that at least one officer was wearing a body camera that recorded the incident.

The LAPD tweeted its version of events early Monday:

Witnesses said that Africa had been living on the streets for around four or five months after spending 10 years in a facility where he received treatment for mental illness.

According to the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, there are around 2,500 homeless people living in the Skid Row area of LA.

The cell phone video has prompted angry reactions as it has spread across social media, and the hashtag #LAPDshooting has trended on Twitter.

The LAPD officers were wearing the bodycams as part of a pilot program adopted by the city in response to a spate of officer involved shootings of unarmed black men that sparked nationwide protests last year. Some 7,000 cops will be equipped with the cameras in coming months. Policies on the use of the devices and public access to footage are still being worked out, according to police.