Family releases video of fatal LAPD shooting, asks for charges against officers

The security footage shows two Los Angeles police officers getting out of their black-and-white SUV, their guns drawn as they watch a woman on the sidewalk walk toward them.

One officer stands behind a red car, his gun aimed at the woman. When she reaches the side of the sedan opposite him, the officers open fire. The woman collapses on the ground.

Nearly seven months after Norma Guzman was fatally shot near downtown L.A., her family released footage of the deadly encounter Wednesday and called for criminal charges against the officers, saying police didn't do enough to avoid shooting the mentally ill 37-year-old.

The shooting occurred about 10 seconds after the first officer exited the SUV, according to the time-stamped video.

“Where's the Taser? Where's the pepper spray? Take a step back. Have some reverence for human life,” the family's attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, told a crowded room of reporters. “There's no way that this could be justified.”

The LAPD has said Guzman was armed with an 8-inch knife and kept moving toward police despite repeated orders to drop the weapon. It is difficult to see Guzman's hands in the video, which was captured by a nearby security camera and has no sound.

Capt. Andy Neiman, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the LAPD's ongoing investigation into the Sept. 27 shooting. He said investigators had obtained recordings from the body cameras the officers were wearing at the time of the shooting that have not been publicly released.

“We're treating this case just like we do all other officer-involved shootings,” Neiman said. “We treat them with the utmost care and give them the greatest attention in terms of the investigative process.”

The release of the recording comes amid heightened scrutiny of how and when LAPD officers use force, with attention coming from outside the department as well as from within. Both LAPD brass and the civilian Police Commission are looking to reduce the number of police shootings by expanding the number of less-lethal devices available to officers and by emphasizing so-called de-escalation strategies.

Guzman was one of 36 people shot by on-duty LAPD officers last year. The Police Commission will ultimately decide whether officers followed department rules for using deadly force, while prosecutors will determine whether to file criminal charges.

The LAPD said the officers confronted Guzman after someone reported a woman armed with a knife in the 2100 block of South San Pedro Street. Guzman's family and their attorney said Guzman, who suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness, often left home to walk in the area.

The family filed a federal lawsuit last fall, alleging
the officers used excessive force.

The LAPD previously identified the officers as Samuel Briggs and Antonio McNeely.

Guzman's mother, Gloria Gonzalez, was emotional at Wednesday's news conference, wiping tears from her eyes as she moved in front of the microphones to speak. When she first saw the footage, she said, she didn't understand why police shot her daughter.

“I couldn't believe what was happening,” she said
in Spanish. “I couldn't believe they had done this to her.”

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

April 7, 12 p.m.: This post has been updated with more information from Guzman's family and their attorney, and a response from the LAPD. 

The first version of this post was published April 6 at 2:43 p.m.

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