Three officers with the Los Angeles Police Department will not be charged in the videotaped fatal shooting of a homeless man last year.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office found that Sgt. Chand Syed, Officer Francisco Martinez and Officer Daniel Torres reasonably believed that Charly Leundeu Keunang posed a lethal threat during the March 1, 2015, shooting, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Thursday the Times obtained a copy of a 22-page memo written by the Justice System Integrity Division of the district attorney’s office Nov. 9 that outlines the reasons the officers involved in the Skid Row shooting would not be charged.
The memo says that the DA’s office concluded that the officers “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others.”
According to the memo, police were called to the scene after reports of an attempted robbery and assault on the side of a Skid Row homeless shelter, the Union Rescue Mission. Keunang and an unidentified man reportedly got into an argument over a cellphone, and after the argument, Keunang attempted to rob the man, threatened to kill him and chased after him with a baseball bat. The man called 911, and when police arrived, he identified Keunang as the person who assaulted him.
Keunang reportedly refused to produce identification, disobeyed officers’ commands to go to a nearby wall and disregarded their warnings that he would be tased. The memo says that Keunang suddenly dove into his tent, and when officers stripped it away, he jumped to his feet and assaulted Officer Martinez, then “struck and grabbed Volasgis.” A struggle ensued between Keunang and the officers, during which Keunang reportedly grabbed for Volasgis’ weapon. Volasgis yelled that Keunang had gotten his gun, and in response Martinez, Torres and then Syed fired their weapons at Keunang, who died at the scene from gunshot wounds.
The memo says that video footage from a Union Rescue Mission camera, the body cameras of Syed and Martinez, and a witness's cellphone was used to establish a chronology of events.
According to the Times, the LAPD has not released the body-camera footage that is cited in the district attorney’s memo, and reporters who have privately viewed the footage have questioned the account of what happened. A previous Times story said that the video did not capture key parts of the incident, including whether Keunang actually grabbed the gun, and a GQ story said that Keunang never had the weapon.
An attorney representing Keunang’s family in a federal wrongful death lawsuit told the Times that the district attorney’s decision was a “travesty of justice,” and he questioned how police handled the encounter.
”We had six heavily armed, trained officers and one unarmed homeless man,” Josh Piovia-Scott said. “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.”
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.