An unarmed man shot by Los Angeles police after he allegedly pointed a towel-covered hand in their direction typically walked with a rag because he sweat a lot, his son said Monday evening.
The officers thought the man, identified by police as Walter William DeLeon, was holding a gun when he pointed his hands at them and moved toward them "aggressively," LAPD officials said. The 48-year-old remained in critical condition Monday.
When reached by phone Monday evening, DeLeon's 18-year-old son said he was shocked when he learned that his father had been shot by police.
"At first, I thought it was like a random person that did it," William DeLeon said. "Then I found out it was the cops. I didn't understand why, because I know my dad wouldn't do anything to provoke it."
William DeLeon said he and his family spent part of the day at his father's bedside.
"He still hasn't woken up yet," he said.
The younger DeLeon said his father was a construction worker: "He just tries to get by," he said. But he declined to say more, saying his family was getting legal advice.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith cautioned that the investigation into Friday evening's shooting was still in its preliminary stages but said there was no initial explanation why DeLeon 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 two officers were sitting in heavy traffic on congested Los Feliz Boulevard when the man approached their squad 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.
Smith said investigators had identified some witnesses. He declined to say what the witnesses reported, but said they were "pretty clear about what they saw."
Investigators are continuing to canvass the area for any surveillance footage and asked anyone else 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 camera.