Patrick Comiskey said he was walking his poodle, Louie, on their regular route through their Mid-Wilshire neighborhood Thursday morning when he saw two police officers struggling with a man.
Comiskey, 54, said it appeared the officers — a man and a woman — were trying to put the man’s hands behind his back to arrest him. He watched as the male officer reached behind his back for what Comiskey thought was a pair of handcuffs. Instead, he heard a gunshot.
“It was point-blank,” Comiskey said. “All hell broke loose.”
Thursday’s shooting on South Sycamore Avenue near 9th Street left the man critically wounded, Los Angeles police said. A police spokesman said investigators were still attempting to identify the man late Thursday afternoon but believed he was about 30 years old.
LAPD officials cautioned that the investigation was still in its early stages but said the officer shot the man during a “violent, physical altercation” during which the man grabbed the other officer’s Taser and used it on that officer. The LAPD spokesman said that officer had a leg injury consistent with a burn from a Taser.
Comiskey described the struggle he saw as “a moment of madness and panic,” but said he saw no indications that a Taser was used.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the two officers assigned to LAPD’s Wilshire Division went to the area about 8:40 a.m. after they received multiple reports of a man using a skateboard to break windows near Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.
When the officers arrived, Smith said, they saw a man matching the description riding a skateboard down Sycamore. The officers began to follow him in their car.
At some point, the man fell or jumped off his skateboard, Smith said. The officers got out of their car and tried to detain him but he did not cooperate with their commands, he said.
During the struggle, one of the officers used a Taser on the man, directly pressing it against his body, Smith said. The Taser didn’t appear to have any effect, he said, and the officers continued to scuffle with the man.
At some point, Smith said, the man grabbed the Taser from the officer and used it on the officer’s leg. The officer’s partner then opened fire, striking the man in the upper body.
The man was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in critical condition, police said. The officers were treated and released for minor injuries.
Smith said an initial report by police that the man was fighting with officers with his skateboard was untrue.
Investigators had interviewed several witnesses, Smith said, but he declined to say what they told police. Sgt. Frank Preciado, another LAPD spokesman, said investigators were also trying to review closed-circuit television footage from the area.
The officers were not wearing body cameras, Preciado said.
The names of the officers will not be released until the LAPD has completed a 72-hour briefing, in which Chief Charlie Beck and other command staff are updated on the initial investigation into the shooting, he said.
Thursday’s incident marks the sixth law enforcement shooting in a week in Los Angeles County and the second by LAPD officers.
On Monday, Jason Hendley, 29, was shot by police in Sylmar and later died at a hospital. Los Angeles police said he was holding a knife as he approached officers responding to an emergency call and when he moved toward them, they fired. Inside the home, police found a man who had been fatally stabbed.
So far this year, LAPD officers have shot 21 people, killing nine.
In the Mid-Wilshire incident, several streets were blocked off as investigators examined the shooting scene. At least one window of a building had been shattered at Wilshire and La Brea.
Matt Tenggren lives two doors down from the scene of the shooting. He heard a flood of sirens and helicopters after the shooting and said he saw a lot of blood on the ground.
“It didn’t look good,” he said.