Kia Bursey was at her home in Lancaster on Friday night when her father called with the news.
Her older brother had been shot by police outside a liquor store in South L.A.’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Bursey got into her car and sped down the 14 Freeway toward the hospital where her brother was taken. Please, she thought, let him hang on.
“I don’t even think I made it to the 5 and my dad called back and said that he passed away,” the 23-year-old recalled.
Police said the shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. Friday, when gang officers stopped a car near Slauson and Brynhurst avenues. A man armed with a gun got out of the car, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said this week. A scuffle ensued, Beck said, and at some point police opened fire.
Authorities have not released the name of the man, but Kia Bursey told The Times her 31-year-old brother, Keith Bursey, was killed.
“This is obviously a tragic incident for all involved, but there is nothing on the face of it that would cause me to think that the officers were doing anything but their jobs,” Beck told police commissioners Tuesday.
But Kia Bursey and others have questioned the police account, wondering why officers approached the vehicle and what prompted them to shoot. Kia Bursey said her brother was pulling into the liquor store with his girlfriend and another friend when police drove up to their car.
“You hear about these things all the time, but to have my only brother’s life taken in the hands of somebody who’s suppose to serve us – it has to stop,” Kia Bursey said. “Enough is enough.”
The LAPD’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Capt. Andy Neiman, a department spokesman, said Thursday that investigators had spoken with several witnesses and were reviewing video footage. The vehicle the officers were driving had a dashboard camera, he said.
Additional details about the deadly encounter, including why the officers stopped the car, have not been released.
Like all LAPD shootings, the incident will also be reviewed by the Police Commission, its inspector general and the district attorney’s office.
Beck said officers were patrolling the neighborhood in anticipation of one gang’s “hood day” -- an anniversary marking the gang’s founding that the chief said was “typically a very, very violent time for us.” The man shot by police, Beck said, was a “documented gang member.”
“He may have been that, but that is not the role, that is not the title he carried,” Kia Bursey said. “He was a son. He was a father. He was a brother.”
Court records showed Keith Bursey had convictions including carrying a loaded gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to five years in prison on the gun charges in 2012, which came after LAPD officers found a loaded pistol under the passenger seat of his car.
Bursey filed an appeal in the case, saying he was wrongly denied the chance to review the officers’ personnel records or complaints filed against them. In his appeal, Bursey questioned how officers could have seen the gun in the car – it was dark outside, and his windows were tinted, he said – and denied the weapon was his.
The appeal was granted and a hearing was held to review the officers’ records; however, his conviction was upheld.
Kia Bursey said that after her brother was released from prison, her family noticed a change. He’d stop by their father’s house to help out, cleaning up the backyard, the pool – “little things like that,” she said.
On Thursday, a collection of candles took up a parking space near the liquor store on Slauson Avenue. Flowers, now wilted, were tucked into a chain-link fence. Several posters, covered with messages, were taped to a nearby wall.
“Police” was written several times, with an “X” through the word.
“RIP Grandson,” another note read. “Your life is not in vain.”
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