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Shooting Is Called Racist, Unprovoked

Times Staff Writer

An official of the Liberian community in Southern California charged Friday that a white Newport Beach police officer was “racially motivated” when he shot an unarmed black Liberian citizen last weekend.

Sumo Nawazee, president of the 200-member Liberian Community of Southern California, said in a prepared statement, “We are outraged by the shooting. . . . It was racially motivated, unprovoked, and we are very angry.”

The victim, Sundaga Bryant, 26, of Orange, remained hospitalized in critical condition Friday. Police, reacting to a report of a man with a sawed-off shotgun on the beach about 3 a.m. Sunday, fired one shotgun blast at Bryant. Police said the officer, Derek Duncan, 25, mistook a portable stereo slung from Bryant’s shoulder for a shotgun.

“It is racist for the fact that the man was on the beach with his wife--a black man married to white woman,” Nawazee said. “The police had three very powerful flashlights and were still unable to identify a radio from a shotgun.”

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Police spokesman Bob Oakley denied Friday that there was any racial taint to the shooting.

He described Duncan as an “exemplary” officer reacting to an emergency--the report of a man with a gun on a darkened beach. “It was a very tragic mistake, but an honest mistake,” Oakley said.

The Liberian consul general from Los Angeles, Andrew Ippolito, was in Balboa on Friday when Bryant’s wife re-enacted what she said happened the night of the shooting. Ippolito said he had come “at the request of the Liberian ambassador to protect the rights of a Liberian citizen. I’m not here to determine culpability or pass judgment on the morality or motivation of the Police Department.”

Ippolito said there are about 300 Liberians living in Southern California.

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