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Police Commission briefly recesses after latest LAPD shooting sparks demonstrations

Police Commission briefly recesses after latest LAPD shooting sparks demonstrations
A Police Commission meeting recessed early for the second consecutive week. (Kate Mather / Los Angeles Times)

For the second consecutive week, Los Angeles Police Commission members briefly recessed a meeting because of loud demonstrators in the audience.

About two dozen activists attended the downtown meeting Tuesday to speak out against several shootings involving the LAPD, the most recent coming last week and resulting in a woman’s death.

The crowd chanted "cowards" as they walked out.

The woman allegedly robbed a pharmacy in Baldwin Hills at knifepoint and was shot by police in an alley about an hour later. The coroner's office has not released her name because they have not been able to locate family members, officials said.

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Wednesday's shooting marked the 25th time LAPD officers shot someone this year. Thirteen of the shootings resulted in deaths.

Residents and activists have raised concerns about the shootings and said the LAPD should release more information about last week's incident — particularly why the woman was shot.

"They found a knife nearby. Does that mean she was threatening the officers with the knife? What does that mean?" said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, in an interview last week with The Times. "There's too many loose ends here — not only how it happened, but all the details around it."

Cmdr. Andrew Smith, an LAPD spokesman, said investigators typically withhold some information until they can verify it, either by interviewing witnesses or officers or by analyzing physical evidence found at the scene. Releasing details about an investigation too early, he said, could taint the statements of other witnesses or otherwise harm the case.

"The real moment of truth is the couple seconds leading up to the officer-involved shooting," he said. "Certainly those are critical seconds between life and death, and also a shooting that is within or out of policy. Before we give out information to the public about that critical time, we want to make sure we have it right."

The commission's Aug. 11 meeting was briefly stopped after demonstrators called for criminal charges against two officers who fatally shot Ezell Ford. The day marked a year since Ford was killed.

Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill African American, was fatally shot as he walked near his South Los Angeles home. Police allege that Ford tackled one of the officers and attempted to grab his gun, prompting the officer to reach for a backup weapon and fire. The officer's partner also shot at Ford, police said.

In June, the Police Commission ruled that one of the officers, Sharlton Wampler, who fatally shot Ford, violated department policy.

Wampler was struggling with Ford over the officer's holstered handgun, Police Chief Charlie Beck said. Although Wampler may have been in a fight for his life, police commissioners decided that he did not have a reason to stop and detain Ford in the first place.

The officer's partner, Antonio Villegas, was found far less culpable.

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news and @JosephSerna for California news.

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