The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that it will not be filing criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed a woman in 2015, once again going against a ruling of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
Prosecutors reviewed evidence that included video footage captured by the officers’ body cameras before deciding not to hold the officers criminally liable for the death of Norma Guzman, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A memo from the district attorney’s office that was made public Wednesday outlines the facts of the case and concludes that Police Officers Samuel Briggs and Antonio McNeely had reason to fear for their lives and “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others.”
From the Times:
According to the document, on the morning of Sept. 27, 2015, a man called 911 to report a woman wielding a knife and screaming outside a barbershop on South San Pedro Street in downtown L.A. When the officers arrived at the scene and spotted Guzman, Briggs told McNeely that she looked crazy, adding an expletive. A moment later he said: “Oh, she’s got a knife!”
The report said that Guzman quickly approached the officers while holding a knife in her right hand, gesticulating with her left hand and yelling something unintelligible. Briggs then yelled, “Drop the knife!” six times, the report said, but Guzman kept approaching them. The officers shot her three times and Guzman died at a hospital soon after.
The Times reports that Guzman, 37, had a history of mental-health problems, and both methamphetamine and THC were in her blood at the time of her death.
One man who was working at the barbershop the day of the shooting said that he heard police yell, “Stop! Stop!” before he heard gunshots, and another witness claims to have seen police handcuff Guzman after she was shot and recover “a long, silver-looking thing,” which, according to the report, was a serrated 7-inch blade.
But a female witness claims that Guzman did not have a weapon at the time of the shooting, and surveillance video captured by a nearby security camera is too blurry to determine whether Guzman had anything in her hand.
Prosecutors said that the bodycam footage “shows clearly that Guzman was armed with a knife,” and they included in their memo an image from the video recorded on Briggs’ bodycam, which appears to show Guzman’s hand pointed downward and holding a long object.
Neither prosecutors nor the LAPD has released the bodycam video at this point, but according to the Times, security video footage shows that Guzman was shot within 10 seconds after the first officer exited the SUV.
In September the police commission faulted one of the two officers involved in Guzman’s shooting for his tactics and his use of deadly force, but Chief Charlie Beck said that he believed both officers had acted within the department’s use-of-force policy.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.