Late on Sunday, a video surfaced on Facebook showing a Los Angeles police officer shoot a homeless man at least five times in the downtown neighborhood Skid Row. The unidentified victim was allegedly involved in an altercation, which caused a group of officers to approach the scene. But the graphic footage reveals how the scene may have escalated as officers wrestled with the man and fatally wounded him within seconds.
In the original video recording, posted by Los Angeles resident Anthony Blackburn to his personal Facebook page, a group of LAPD officers tackle the homeless man to the ground after he starts waving his arms. A brutal struggle between the man and at least four officers unfolds on the sidewalk, while two other officers tackle a woman nearby. A Taser is fired twice, and an officer can also be heard shouting, "Drop the gun!"
Then, one of the police officers steps back. Five gunshots, at close range, ring out as the homeless man remains motionless on the Skid Row sidewalk.
The unedited video has received more than 4.5 million views and was shared nearly 200,000 times in the last 15 hours. Blackburn posted the video with a straightforward caption: "Homeless man just killed by police minutes ago downtown L.A."
The officer-shooting occurred just before noon on Sunday in Skid Row, a neighborhood known for its large homeless population and high crime rate. There were dozens of bystanders, many of whom are heard yelling or cursing in disbelief after the gunshots were fired.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD believes there was a struggle over an officer's gun, leading to the fatal shots. LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith confirmed to the LA Times that two officers and a sergeant fired their weapons. The incident was also captured on at least one body camera worn by an officer.
The LAPD confirmed that a Taser was used in the incident, claiming the homeless man continued to resist after officers initially attempted to subdue him. Here's how the LAPD sets the scene via Twitter:
But bystanders question whether the homeless man was truly reaching for an officer's gun or resisted the officers in any way. "That man never was a threat," eyewitness Lonnie Franklin told the LA Times. "The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him."
LAPD officials said the officers were called to Skid Row early Sunday afternoon responding to a reported robbery. In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file LAPD members, affirmed that the officers "felt they were in life-threatening danger" that required the use of force.
"No officer goes to work with the intent of using force, much less deadly force," the LAPPL said. "As tragic as these situations are, law enforcement officers absolutely have the right to defend their life or the life of another."
Images: screenshot/Anthony Blackburn