LAPD shoots homeless man on Skid Row as many watch (video)

skid-row-shooting-grab.jpgScreen grab of video minutes after fatal LAPD shooting Sunday on Skid Row.

There was a chaotic scene at 5th and San Pedro about noon on Sunday that ended with a mentally ill homeless man dead and the LAPD facing questions again about a fatal police shooting caught on video. The video posted to Facebook shows a homeless man fighting with officers responding to a trouble call in a colony of sidewalk tents. The flailing man is wrestled down and, as four officers try to control him, a voice that appears to be one of the officers shouts repeatedly for him to drop the gun. A couple of seconds later, at least one of the officers steps back and fires several shots into the man, killing him. On the video, onlookers erupt into angry cursing and shouting at the officers while more LAPD cars swarm the scene and keep the gathering crowd back. It's an intense scene with much emotion and profanity. "My heart just started pounding just watching it," police commission president Steven Soboroff told the LA Times. "I feel the adrenaline. These situations are just so horrific."

Some witnesses say the homeless man, known on the block only as Africa, grabbed or tried to grab one of the officers' guns before he was shot. "To me, that would be the only explanation that something would happen that quickly," Soboroff said. "It escalated right in front of our eyes." On the video, however, some of the witnesses clearly thought the incident did not demand deadly force. They start shouting that the LAPD officers were cowards.

Africa was described as a mentally troubled man who had shown up in the area in recent months and had gotten in a dispute in one of the sidewalk tents this morning. For what it's worth, the witness names quoted in the Times include a "Lonnie Franklin" — the name of South LA's alleged Grim Reaper serial killer — and a "Booker T. Washington." When you are a reporter on the street at a crime scene, you write down the name the person gives you.

No officers were hurt in the incident. On the video, you see a woman on the sidewalk pick up a baton that one of the officers dropped during the scuffle. She is quickly tackled by two other officers and handcuffed.

Later tonight, the LAPD said that the homeless man did grab an officer's gun and that three of the officers, including a sergeant, fired shots. A Taser was used before the final incident but to no avail. The LAPD, which is investigating, said the officers originally responded to a report of a robbery in progress.

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