Activists call for independent investigation of fatal skid row shooting

Activists call for independent investigation of fatal skid row shooting
Members of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Los Angeles Community Action Network rally outside Los Angeles police headquarters in downtown L.A., demanding an independent investigation into the skid row shooting of a homeless man earlier this month. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Activists denounced police and city officials Tuesday for their handling of the death of a homeless man who was shot and killed by officers on skid row.

Gathered outside Los Angeles police headquarters on Tuesday, about two dozen people called on the Department of Justice for an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Charly Leundeu Keunang.

"We are saying we can't trust this building," Pete White, founder of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said of LAPD headquarters.

They also denounced Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck and Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, for their actions after the March 1 shooting.

White pointed out that, more than a week later, body-camera footage from the shooting had yet to be released.

Activists also demanded more mental health services and measures to protect homeless residents on skid row. They made a plea to disband the Safer Cities Initiative, a police task force that patrols skid row. Instead, members from LACAN, Black Lives Matter and Stop LAPD Spying Coalition asked that the team be replaced with people who have more knowledge of skid row and mental health.

"Our community is traumatized," said General Jeff Page, known as the "mayor" of skid row.

The death of Keunang, a native of Cameroon known as "Africa," sparked public outcry after a video posted on Facebook of the shooting was viewed by millions of people.


Officers contacted Keunang while they were responding to a 911 call, LAPD said. But they said he refused to follow their commands and instead tried to fight. Police said he grabbed a rookie officer's holstered pistol, prompting three others to open fire.

Coroner's officials said he died of multiple gunshot wounds. The coroner's office ruled his death a homicide. Homicide is the standard coroner's classification for a death caused by the hand of another.

French officials said Keunang had been living under a stolen identity belonging to a French man. He used the name when he was convicted of a 2000 bank robbery in Thousand Oaks.

Page on Tuesday blasted the LAPD for its "character assassination" of Keunang.

His death has angered homeless advocates who say police tactics are too aggressive.

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