Do we have to worry now that if we flag down a cop on the street for help, we might get shot?
It's understandable if the public picks up that idea after the Friday evening incident in which two officers from LAPD's security services division shot a man in the head after he waved them down in Los Feliz near Griffith Park.
They thought the 40ish Latino man might have a weapon because of the way he was holding his arms out together, and he had a cloth or towel wrapped around one arm. They told him to drop the weapon.
He didn't comply with the demand, maybe because, as it turned out, the man didn't have a weapon. As he lay bleeding next to the sidewalk, officers cuffed his hands behind his back. That part, at least, is easy to visualize because a bystander took a video recording of the arrest and uploaded it to the Internet.
But so many of the other crucial details have been left to the imagination — details that might assure us that this guy did something so crazy or scary that any reasonable person would shoot first and ask questions later. Did the man say anything? Did he appear high? The only tidbit to emerge Monday was that he was acting "aggressively." What does that mean? Was he running at officers, bellowing? Was he ranting to an invisible friend? Did he say, "I'm going to shoot you with my gun now"?
A year ago, the shooting of an unarmed man acting weird near Griffith Park might have caused little more than a blip on the public’s radar. But the city's and nation's intense and legitimate concerns about the excessive force used on unarmed people, especially men of color and the mentally ill, means everyone is on high alert when it happens.
It behooves LAPD to share enough information to put our minds at ease so we know that simply approaching an officer won't put us in the gun sights.
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