Advertisement

Man Shot, Killed by Deputies : Violence: Officials say the victim was a former mental patient and was reaching for a knife.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man described by authorities as a former mental patient was shot and killed Tuesday in Ladera Heights by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. The deputies said he was reaching for a knife and they feared he would attack, officials said Wednesday.

The incident began late Tuesday when a woman called authorities to say she was having trouble with her son, sheriff’s spokesman Gabe Ramirez said.

Ramirez did not specify what trouble the man was causing but a witness said that shortly before the 10 p.m. shooting, the man, Keith Hamilton, had been ranting and making disjointed statements in the back yard of his home in the 5300 block of West Slauson Avenue.

Ramirez said that when deputies tried to subdue him, Hamilton was “extremely agitated and uncooperative.” He said deputies shot Hamilton when he “reached for the knife on his belt.”

Advertisement

But three neighbors, including one who said he witnessed all of the incident and another who saw part of it, raised questions about the deputies’ handling of the situation. One, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw the incident from the balcony of his apartment. He said the first two officers at the scene, particularly a woman deputy, had calmed Hamilton down.

But then a second group of deputies who arrived as backup escalated the situation, he said. He also said deputies beat Hamilton before he was shot.

Another neighbor, Harry A. Williams Jr., a retired Air Force officer, said that after the shooting he saw two officers briefly leave, and return with what seemed to be “an object in their hands which they also appeared to be wiping. . . . They then leaned down and placed the object near or under the body.” Williams said he could not tell what the object was.

A department spokesman said there would be no immediate response to the allegations, but added that Sheriff Sherman Block would discuss the shooting when he attends the opening of a Ladera Heights station at 10 a.m. today.

Advertisement

Ramirez said that when the first two deputies to answer the call arrived at the rented triplex on Slauson Avenue, they found Hamilton, 33, in the back yard, armed with a “folding type knife . . . in a sheath on his belt.”

“Deputies believed the former mental patient might (have been) under the influence of PCP” because of his behavior, he said.

The deputies called for assistance and were soon joined by four other deputies and a field sergeant, who fired two electrical darts at Hamilton, Ramirez said. “The darts had little or no effect. . . . Hamilton struck one of the deputies in the face. He fought wildly,” Ramirez said.

After Hamilton was forced to the ground, Ramirez said, he “reached for the knife on his belt.” At that point, Deputies Kelly Enos, 26, who has been with the department for three years, and Paul McCready, 27, a four-year veteran, fired several rounds at Hamilton, Ramirez said. Hamilton was pronounced dead at the scene. The other deputies were not identified.

Advertisement

Hamilton’s mother, Clara Maxie, was under sedation, according to a relative, who said the family’s attorney, Geraldine Green, will make a statement today.

Meanwhile, the neighbors disputed the Sheriff’s Departments’ statement about the incident.

The man who said he witnessed the shooting said Hamilton did not fight deputies after being hit by the darts, and fell to his knees. Still, he said, the officers struck Hamilton.

“One officer hit him so hard the baton went out of his hand,” he said. He said he related his version of events to an investigator for the district attorney.

Advertisement

Another neighbor, who declined to give her name, said she knew Hamilton and his family, and that Hamilton was “not a violent person, to my knowledge. . . . He did have to take medication all the time and when he didn’t sometimes he started to holler and cuss. His mother had called the sheriffs before. They’d talk to him out on the curb and let him go. That’s why this was such a shock when I heard he was dead.”


Advertisement