An unarmed man shot by police Friday in Los Feliz had pointed his clasped hands at officers and then moved "aggressively" toward them, police said Monday, leading the officers to believe he had a gun in his towel-wrapped hand.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith cautioned that the investigation into Friday's shooting was still in its preliminary stages but said there was no initial explanation why the man would have flagged down the two officers. Investigators did not find a broken-down car nearby, Smith said, and there was no injury to the man's hand that was covered in the towel.
"He didn't appear to be flagging down the officers because of some sort of emergency," Smith said.
The man remained in critical condition Monday. His name has not been released because investigators are still trying to locate his relatives, Smith said.
The two officers were sitting in heavy traffic on congested Los Feliz Boulevard when the man approached their black-and-white car, Smith said.
The officers ordered him to drop what they thought was a weapon, Smith said, but the man didn't respond to those commands. One officer then opened fire, Smith said.
Both officers have been removed from the field pending the department's 72-hour briefing on the incident, when Chief Charlie Beck and other command staff will review the initial stages of the investigation. The names of the officers have not been released.
The officers were assigned to the LAPD's Security Services Division, a detail that provides security to city-owned property. They were tasked with patrolling Griffith Park, located not far from the shooting scene.
Investigators are continuing to canvass the area for any surveillance footage and asked any witnesses who may have seen the shooting to come forward, Smith said. The officers were not wearing department-issued body cameras and their cruiser didn't have a dash cam.
The shooting happened about 6:30 p.m. Friday along a stretch of Los Feliz Boulevard popular among joggers and people walking their dogs. Residents described a quiet neighborhood--one man said he could "immediately tell" gunshots had been fired because the sound was so unusual.
Michael Coscia, who has lived in a nearby apartment complex for 11 years, was reading on his couch when he heard three shots. He ran to his bathroom window and looked outside.
A man was on the grass in front of another apartment complex, with "red all over his head," Coscia said. Two officers had their guns drawn.
"I thought he was dead," Coscia said. "He bled a lot."
Coscia said the officers then holstered their weapons, flipped the man over and handcuffed him. Police cars and helicopters quickly descended upon the neighborhood as Coscia and his neighbors went outside.
Another resident, Natalie Gomez, said she also heard the gunfire. She rushed to the window with a pair of binoculars, using them to spot a man down on the ground.
"This poor guy was facedown, handcuffed, blood just gushing," Gomez said. "It was bright, bright, thick red blood."
Gomez said she didn't see the officers try to help the man.
"I was just like, 'What are they going to do?'" she said. "'Are they just going to let this guy die?'"
The LAPD has said the officers followed standard protocol in handcuffing the man after he was shot.