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Friends, family show support for unarmed man shot by police in Los Feliz

Dozens of people gathered in Los Feliz on Saturday evening for a walk to show support for an unarmed man who was shot and critically wounded by Los Angeles police a week ago.

About 60 of Walter DeLeon's relatives, friends and co-workers slowly walked along Los Feliz Boulevard to the grassy patch where he was shot, carrying gray towels to represent what he was holding when an officer opened fire.

DeLeon's niece held up a cardboard sign — "Justice for Walter!" — that prompted honks and cheers from passing cars. His 80-year-old mother cried as she pushed her walker up the hill. DeLeon's 17-year-old daughter led the group, using one of the towels to wipe away her own tears.

DeLeon's family said they wanted to raise more awareness about the June 19 shooting in hopes more witnesses would come forward. But, they added, they also want to see an end to police shootings.

"I want justice for him," said DeLeon's mother, Elisa, her voice breaking. "My son is not an animal. He is a human."

DeLeon, 48, was shot along a busy stretch of Los Feliz Boulevard after police said he approached two officers "aggressively" and pointed at them, his hands covered in a gray cloth. The LAPD said the officers ordered him to drop what they thought was a weapon, but that he did not comply and kept moving toward the officers.

One officer, Cairo Palacios, opened fire, striking DeLeon in the head. No gun was found.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. It remains unclear why DeLeon approached police; the LAPD has said no broken-down car was found nearby and that there was no indication he had a hand injury requiring assistance.

DeLeon's family disputed the police narrative, saying DeLeon was not known to be aggressive. An attorney representing DeLeon's mother and sister said they had found dozens of witnesses who also contradicted the LAPD's account, but declined to detail what they said.

DeLeon's two teenage children have visited their father daily in the hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

"I just want him to wake up," his daughter, Gisselle, said.

When they arrived at the place where DeLeon was shot, his relatives and friends dropped their gray towels in a small pile around a candle and some flowers. Later, they stood in a circle, holding hands and hugging. DeLeon's childhood best friend said the Lord's Prayer.

As people began to leave the makeshift memorial, DeLeon's sister walked away with her mother. Yovanna DeLeon, 45, described her older brother as a loving, respectful man, but declined to say more, calling it "a long day."

But she quickly changed her mind, flagging down a reporter to say one more thing.

"I want to send a message to [LAPD Chief] Charlie Beck, anybody, that something has to change," she said. "They're supposed to serve and protect.... They did not serve. And they most definitely did not protect."

kate.mather@latimes.com

Follow @katemather on Twitter

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