Long Beach police have identified the officer who fatally shot an unarmed college student last month as Matthew Hernandez, a 12-year veteran of the force.
Hernandez was alone when he confronted Feras Morad, 20, on May 27. He was responding to a call about an intoxicated, potentially violent person who had fallen or jumped out of a second-story window on East 15th Street, police officials said.
Hernandez told Morad he was there to help, according to the department's statement, but Morad "advanced" on the officer, who fired a Taser twice.
A "physical struggle" ensued and the officer struck Morad with his flashlight, said David Hendricks, deputy chief of the department's investigative bureau. During the struggle, the two men momentarily separated, Hendricks said, though he wouldn't say how far apart they were. Then Morad advanced again, at which point the officer shot him, police said.
Hernandez has been put on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation into the shooting, which is standard procedure.
Kareem Morad, a cousin of Feras Morad, told The Times after the shooting that Morad had made a "silly mistake of experimenting with [hallucinogenic] mushrooms and, unfortunately, he had a bad reaction to it. He needed help, and he didn't get the help he needed."
The entire incident was out of character for Morad, his friends and family said. The Woodland Hills resident had a 3.9 grade-point average in high school, where he competed nationally on the speech and debate team. He does not appear to have a criminal history.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that my brother is gone. I don't know how this happened," Morad's sister, Ghada Morad, 16, said at his vigil last week. "I don't know how this could have happened to someone like him.... Even if he did something wrong, he shouldn't have died."
On Thursday, protesters, including some from Black Lives Matter, demonstrated with Morad's family and friends outside the Long Beach Police Department. A day earlier, more than 400 people gathered at a park in Woodland Hills for a candlelight vigil. One after another, people stood up and spoke about Morad's intellect, humility and leadership.
They questioned whether Morad was threatening the officer or if the officer reasonably believed he was in danger before firing his gun.
The incident marked the fourth officer-involved shooting this year in Long Beach and the 25th in the last three years, the department said. Eleven people were killed in those incidents.
No police dashboard camera or officer body camera captured the confrontation, Hendricks said.
Morad's family say he was the last person anyone would imagine getting into a confrontation with police — or anybody, for that matter.
After graduating from high school, Morad went to Moorpark College, his sister said. He planned to transfer to Cal State Long Beach in the fall and then go to law school.
"He was a violence-last guy," said Joey Cohen, 20, who served with Morad in the ROTC. "Always used his words."
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