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LAPD chief asks commission to delay review of fatal shooting of unarmed homeless man

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck asked his civilian bosses Tuesday to delay their review of the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man while the district attorney's office is evaluating whether to charge the officer who opened fire.

Beck made the request at the weekly meeting of the city's Police Commission, a day after the Los Angeles Times reported that he had recommended that Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey's office charge the officer who killed Brendon Glenn.

The chief told the Police Commission that his recommendation -- the first time as chief that he has called for criminal charges in a fatal on-duty shooting -- was not one he took lightly. Beck said he believed it was important for him as chief to "stand up for the department when it's right," but also "be forthright when he sees something that he believes is wrong."

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The commissioners, who oversee the Los Angeles Police Department and decide whether officers who use deadly force violated the department's policies, did not initially say at Tuesday's meeting whether they would grant Beck's request. The chief asked for the delay so the commission's review would not "conflate" the D.A.'s investigation or potential prosecution.

Beck defended his decision after the meeting, telling reporters that he felt it was his obligation as chief to not only defend his officers when necessary, but also "call it as I see it" if those officers overstep department or legal standards.

"I think it's an opinion that the prosecutor needed to hear," he said.

When asked why he didn't keep his recommendation to Lacey private, Beck referenced the ongoing national debate about policing, calling it a "conversation that has to be had."

Beck told The Times that LAPD investigators concluded that Glenn was on his stomach, attempting to push himself off the ground, when Officer Clifford Proctor stepped back and fired twice, hitting the 29-year-old in the back.

An autopsy report made public Tuesday confirmed Glenn was shot in his back and died of the gunshot wounds. Both gunshots, the report said, were "immediately life-threatening."

After reviewing video, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators determined Glenn was not trying to take either Proctor's gun or his partner's weapon at the time of the shooting, Beck said. Proctor's partner also told investigators he did not know why the officer opened fire, Beck said.

The May 5 shooting in Venice generated fierce criticism of the LAPD and came amid a heated national conversation about police officers and their use of force, particularly against African Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.

The decision whether to file charges rests with Lacey, who, like prosecutors across the country, has recently come under fire for not charging officers in controversial incidents. L.A. County prosecutors have not charged a law enforcement officer for an on-duty shooting in 15 years.

Beck told The Times that he made his recommendation to Lacey last month, when the LAPD handed over its investigation to prosecutors. The chief said he spoke to Lacey about the case, but did not ask -- and was not told -- whether she planned to charge the officer.

On Monday, Lacey's office said prosecutors were still reviewing the case.

"As the county's top prosecutor, it is my ethical obligation to remain impartial until a thorough and independent investigation is completed by my office," Lacey said in a statement. "Decisions on whether or not to file criminal charges will be based solely on the facts and the law -- not on emotion, anger or external pressure."

Proctor's attorney, Larry Hanna, accused LAPD brass of making a "political decision."

Hanna defended his client's decision to shoot, saying Proctor saw Glenn going for his partner's gun -- even if his partner may not have realized it. Although a security camera captured the events leading up to the shooting, Hanna said, both of Glenn's hands could not be seen for the entirety of the recording.

The LAPD said the deadly encounter began shortly before midnight, when Proctor and his partner responded to a complaint that a homeless man was harassing customers outside a Windward Avenue business, not far from the famed boardwalk.

The officers briefly talked to the man -- later identified as Glenn -- and returned to their patrol car after he walked toward the boardwalk, police said.

Soon after, police said, the officers saw Glenn struggling with a bouncer outside a nearby bar. The officers approached Glenn and tried to detain him, the LAPD said, leading to a "physical altercation." At some point, Proctor opened fire.

Proctor, who has been with the LAPD for eight years, has not returned to work since the shooting.

Follow @katemather on Twitter for more LAPD news.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

4:53 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the autopsy conducted on Brendon Glenn.

1:33 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck after Tuesday's Police Commission meeting.

This article was originally published at 10:49 a.m.

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