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LAPD Account of Killing Rebutted : Shooting: A witness says officers fired at man while he was kneeling and had his hands on his head. Police said he appeared to reach for a weapon.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The family and friends of a Los Angeles man shot to death by police last weekend said Friday that officers fired on the 26-year-old while he was kneeling on the ground with his hands on his head.

Freddy Santana was urinating in bushes by a house in his Exposition Park neighborhood when officers ordered him at gunpoint to step into a clearing and drop to the ground, said Isaac Vega. Vega said he watched the confrontation from inside his van parked across the street.

Vega, along with the slain man’s family, priest and lawyer, spoke to reporters at a news conference in front of St. Vincent de Paul Church, the Santana family’s church.

Santana complied, Vega said, then asked police: “Can I throw my can down?” Santana apparently was referring to a spray paint can he carried, Vega said.

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“They yelled, ‘Lie down on your stomach! Lie down on your stomach! Lie down!’ ” Vega said. “Then, pow, pow, pow!”

Vega said he heard Santana moan, then a few seconds later, another series of gunshots.

“I thought at first they were shooting at the ground to scare him into laying down,” Vega said. “I couldn’t believe they were shooting him. He hadn’t done anything.”

A day after the shooting, Los Angeles Police Lt. William Hall said officers fired after Santana reached for what appeared to be a gun tucked into his waistband. Hall, who supervises the LAPD team that investigates officer-involved shootings, said investigators retrieved a “simulated gun” at the scene. No further description was available.

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A police spokeswoman said on Friday that the investigation was continuing and that the department had no response to the allegations.

A lawyer representing Santana’s family said three witnesses have corroborated Vega’s account of the shooting. Despite the paint can, which was tucked into a pocket and may have been mistaken for a weapon, Santana was shot as he kneeled, empty-handed, with arms raised, said attorney Arthur Goldberg.

A wrongful death damage claim would be filed with the city, he said.

A St. Vincent’s priest who is advising the family requested the suspension of the officers involved in the shooting, Ulysses Gasca, 35, and Joseph Delorenzo, 33, until an investigation is completed.

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