LAPD chief defends absence from heated Venice town hall

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck defended his absence from a heated town hall meeting in Venice, telling reporters Monday that he also recommended the mayor not attend the community meeting convened after the fatal police shooting of a homeless man.

Several people who attended Thursday night's meeting faulted Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti for not being there. Beck rebuffed the criticism of the mayor, saying it was "unfair" because previous mayors hadn't attended similar events in the past.

"I've been to a bunch of these meetings, town hall meetings, following a violent incident. I didn't go to this one, and if you want to criticize the chief for that, that's fine," Beck said. "And I recommended to the mayor that he not go to this one. So if there's criticism, it should be on me."

Beck said the town hall event, which was attended by hundreds of people, was organized and handled by a "very capable" deputy chief, Bea Girmala. The chief said he had "tremendous confidence" in Girmala's leadership and said he trusted she would report back to him "in totality."

Garcetti said he had "heard a lot of the feedback," even without attending the meeting.

The remarks came during a news conference in which the mayor and chief discussed a weekend gun buyback event, one of a handful the city holds each year. But the conversation quickly turned to the deadly May 5 encounter in Venice, where a police officer shot and killed an unarmed homeless man.

Brendon Glenn's death comes amid a heated national conversation about police officers and their use of force, particularly against black men. Glenn, 29, was black, as was the officer who shot him, the LAPD said.

The shooting was captured by a security camera on a nearby building. Beck said last week that after reviewing the recording, he was "very concerned" about the deadly encounter.

Garcetti said Monday that he had not seen the video, which has not been released. The mayor said making the recording public could hurt the investigation into the officer's actions.

"It's important to make sure that, especially if things are going to go to a criminal jury … that we not taint people one way or another," Garcetti said.

Beck cautioned that the video, which sources said doesn't explain why the officer fired his weapon, was only one part of the ongoing investigation and must be examined along with other evidence.

Both Garcetti and Beck stressed that the shooting would be thoroughly reviewed by the LAPD, district attorney's office, civilian Police Commission and its inspector general.

Police said the deadly encounter began about 11:20 p.m. when officers were called to a stretch of Windward Avenue just off the Venice boardwalk. A caller had reported that a homeless man — later identified as Glenn — was "harassing customers" outside a building, LAPD officials said.

The two officers talked to Glenn briefly, the LAPD said. When he walked toward the boardwalk, the officers returned to their patrol car.

Soon after, police said, the officers saw Glenn "physically struggling" with a bouncer outside a bar. The officers approached the man and tried to detain him, police said, leading to a "physical altercation" that ended with one officer opening fire.

The two officers have been removed from the field. An LAPD spokesman said the department would release their names after it evaluated whether any credible threats have been made to the officers' safety.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.


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