Chief Charlie Beck said Monday he was reserving judgment about why officers fatally shot an unarmed car chase suspect after he crashed his Corvette on live TV and tried to stagger away.
Beck warned that officers may have had a different perspective from that of news helicopters over the scene Friday night in downtown Los Angeles.
Brian Newt Beaird, 51, of Oceanside, was shot to death by LAPD gunfire live on KTLA-TV at the end of a nearly hour-long pursuit just seconds after his Corvette collided with another car at an intersection, spun his mangled vehicle and careened onto the sidewalk.
Beaird is seen on video getting out of the car following the high-impact collision and crash, and walking behind his silver Corvette while briefly raising his hands with his back to officers.
While he is on the sidewalk, he grabs his stomach and falls to the ground after one or more officers open fire.
Investigators are examining whether any non-lethal munitions may have been fired prior to the gunfire, triggering the shooting. The footage from KTLA shows an object bounce and roll across the sidewalk almost simultaneously with gunfire.
Police have acknowledged Beaird was not armed at the time of the shooting.
"It is way to early for me to draw those kind of conclusions," Beck said when asked if the sound of a bean bag round being fired triggered the shooting.
"Right now that kind of stuff is speculation, speculation isn't always wrong…we will work through this," he continued. "It is important for the public to know we investigate shootings more thoroughly than any entity in the nation."
Beck said the officers' perspective on the ground at Olympic Boulevard and Los Angeles Street could be different from an above-ground view.
"It is very different to see something from 1,200 feet from a helicopter rather than 15 feet away in the dust and the noise. So I reserve judgment," Beck said. "It is very easy to draw conclusions based on what you just saw. That is not what they saw."
He said officers go to great lengths when using bean bag rounds to avoid anyone thinking the sound is a gunshot.
"Before an officer discharges the bean bag, the protocol is to loudly state, 'Bean bag ready, bean bag ready,' so everyone knows the detonation heard is not a gunshot.
"These are tough instances," he said. "It is difficult to do them perfectly in the haste of the moment."
The incident began as a suspected drunk or reckless driver pursuit in Cudahy around 9:30 p.m. by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies; the LAPD took over the pursuit when it reached city limits.
With several LAPD cars following his Corvette, the suspect T-boned a Nissan crossing the intersection at Olympic and Los Angeles, sending the passing car into a fire hydrant.
Beaird's mangled Corvette spun to a rest on the street corner. Despite the wreck, he tried to pull away, but then abandoned the vehicle and got out, staggering around to the sidewalk on the passenger side.
He was surrounded by officers with patrol cars from the Newton Division when the gunfire rang out. He died less than an hour later at California Hospital Medical Center, authorities said.