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Police denounced at Venice town hall session on homeless man's shooting

At raucous hearing in Venice, police and city leaders are criticized over officer's shooting of homeless man

Anger spilled out of a packed auditorium in Venice on Thursday night as residents and activists blasted Los Angeles police officials over an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man.

The town hall meeting, convened two days after Tuesday night's deadly encounter, drew a standing-room-only crowd at Westminster Elementary School. People in the audience often shouted down the speakers, demanding to see a video of the shooting and be given the name of the officer who fired his gun.

"We are here to listen. We are not here to be the talking heads and pontificate to you," said Deputy Chief Bea Girmala, the top-ranking LAPD official in attendance. "We are here to listen."

When Girmala first mentioned the shooting, she was quickly interrupted by shouts of "murder!" from the crowd. "Say it!" one man said.

"I am not going to say that," Girmala replied. "The investigation is still ongoing."

Those in attendance were upset over the death of Brendon Glenn, 29, a New York native who had recently been living in Venice. But they also criticized the city for what many described as a lack of resources to help the neighborhood's homeless population and called for better training for LAPD officers who interact with the mentally ill.

"We don't want a police officer in the car," one man said. "We want a professional mental health person in the car who understands what the problem really is."

The crowd erupted in applause.

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commissioner Mike Neely, who was standing outside with dozens of other people who were unable to get into the packed auditorium, faulted top city leaders for failing to show up to face the angry crowd.

"Where is the mayor? Where is the chief of police?" Neely said. "I don't think they realize this person was someone people really cared about. He was connected to all the [homeless] services and he was struggling to improve his life."

Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said he wasn't surprised by the emotion he saw.

"I think it's important for me to look past all the frustration, the disrespect, the misinformation and the misconceptions to see what we can do better," he said. "Because the goal is zero. We want zero officer-involved shootings."

Police said the deadly encounter began about 11:20 p.m. when police responded to a stretch of Windward Avenue just off Venice's famed boardwalk. A caller had reported a homeless man — later identified as Glenn — who was "harassing customers" outside a building, LAPD officials said.

The two officers talked to Glenn briefly, the LAPD said. When he walked toward the boardwalk, the officers returned to their patrol car.

Soon after, police said, the officers saw Glenn "physically struggling" with a bouncer outside a bar. The officers approached the man and tried to detain him, police said, leading to a "physical altercation" that ended with the shooting.

The scuffle and shooting were captured by a security camera on a nearby building. What the recording shows — and what it doesn't — has prompted concern among LAPD officials.

Law enforcement sources said the recording showed the officers struggling with Glenn and successfully taking him to the ground. One source said it appeared that the officers had control over him.

But then, the sources said, one of the officers stood up and began to move away. As he did that, they said, Glenn also began to stand up and started struggling with the second officer.

The first officer, who was standing a few feet from Glenn, then fired what appeared to be two shots, the sources said.

The sources noted that there was no audio on the recording but said there was no visible physical action by Glenn that could explain why the officer shot him.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters that he had reviewed the footage and was "very concerned about the shooting." He declined to elaborate about what was on the video, but said he did not see "the supporting evidence that I normally would" that would justify an officer shooting an unarmed person.

The two officers involved have been removed from the field. The shooting will be reviewed by the civilian Police Commission, its inspector general and the district attorney's office.

On Thursday night, more than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil for Glenn on the sidewalk not far from where he was shot. One friend, Kory Artis, talked about how Glenn had offered his blanket one night.

"He always watched out for me," Artis said. "I saw him two hours before the shooting. I wish I never left him.… This cop needs to be in prison like I would be if I killed somebody. Brendon was unarmed."

Tim Pardue, who helps operate a drop-in center for the homeless called Protection and Direction, said he was working at his computer when he heard what he thought might be shots but he didn't move until he heard a police helicopter. He walked outside and saw a body on the ground a few doors down.

"I saw [Glenn's] dog Dozer and I knew it was him right away," Pardue said. "It was really a sad situation."

Earlier, speaking from Glenn's hometown of Troy, N.Y., his 79-year-old grandmother told The Times that his family was shocked to hear he had been shot by police. Ann McGuirk said her grandson wasn't a troublemaker and had kept in touch with his family and 3-year-old child since he moved to California.

McGuirk said her grandson came to Los Angeles because a friend lived there and he thought it would be a good place to work. The family encouraged the move, she said, because Glenn was young. They thought it would be a good experience.

"He didn't do anything to deserve to be shot dead. It was uncalled for," she said. "He had his whole life ahead of him."

kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

gale.holland@latimes.com

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