Woman questions LAPD shooting in South L.A.

A 21-year-old local resident said Thursday that she saw Los Angeles police fatally shoot a woman who was running from officers down a Baldwin Hills alley.

Courtyana Franklin questioned why police shot the woman, saying she watched Wednesday's events unfold from the side mirror of her car, which was parked in the alley near Marlton Avenue and Santo Tomas Drive.

"I do know for a fact that she was not charging at them," Franklin said. "Those police were running. They were not trying to get away from her."

The LAPD has said that officers deployed a Taser during the encounter with the woman, who police said was armed with a knife. Police said a Taser cartridge was found in the alley, indicating the device had been used.

Franklin said she did not see or hear a Taser used.

"I just saw her running," Franklin said. "And when they fired the three shots, I just saw her body fly on the ground."

Franklin said she had parked in the alley Wednesday afternoon so she could pick up her cousin and then drive to their grandmother's house. They had just reached her car, she said, when she saw the woman and officers running toward them.

Franklin said she realized police were chasing the woman when she saw their guns. Her cousin ran to a nearby courtyard but Franklin, afraid she might get caught in gunfire, stayed in her car. She said she watched the chase and shooting through the side mirror on the driver's side and by turning around and looking through her vehicle's back window.

"I couldn't believe what was going on," she said. "It just happened so fast."

After the shooting, more police cars and a helicopter were on the scene almost immediately, Franklin said. She said one officer asked if she would move her car, but that no one asked if she had witnessed the shooting.

Franklin said Thursday evening that she still had not spoken to any investigators about what she saw.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith, an LAPD spokesman, confirmed Thursday that two police officers chased the woman -- who was suspected of robbing a nearby pharmacy about 20 minutes earlier -- down the alley. He said Franklin's account differed from the initial investigation into the shooting but declined to elaborate.

Smith said the LAPD hoped to speak with Franklin and "find out what she saw."

"We'd very much like to interview her," he said.

Investigators have spoken with at least one other witness, Smith said.

In addition to other potential witnesses, Smith said detectives were looking for any video that might have captured the encounter. The officers were not wearing body cameras; their patrol car was equipped with cameras but it was not clear what they captured.

Smith stressed the investigation was still in its early stages. As with all LAPD shootings, the deadly encounter will also be reviewed by the district attorney's office, the Police Commission and its independent inspector general.

"Anytime there's a loss of life, it's a concern for us," Smith said. 

The events leading up to the shooting began about 1:40 p.m., when officers from the LAPD's Southwest Division went to a pharmacy in the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive that had been robbed, Det. Meghan Aguilar said. Someone at the pharmacy described the female suspect to police and said she had used a knife, Aguilar said.

The officers broadcast that information to other officers in the area. About 20 minutes later, police spotted a woman matching the description of that suspect in the alley, Aguilar said.

A "large knife" was found at the scene, Aguilar said.

The woman's name has not been released. Coroner's officials said Thursday that they had identified her but had not spoken with her next of kin.

On Thursday, a small memorial went up near the site of the shooting. Candles and flowers dotted the pavement, next to a figurine of two hands clasped in prayer.

Franklin said she was shaken by what she had seen. Even if the woman had robbed the pharmacy, she said, she didn't understand why police shot her.

"You don't get the death penalty for robbing a pharmacy," she said. "What I saw was someone running in the alley and police chasing her with guns. And I saw them shoot at her, three times, and she fell to the ground."

Times staff writer Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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