A police officer violated department policy when he fatally shot a man in a locker room at a 24 Hour Fitness gym in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled Tuesday.
The commission’s decision contradicted LAPD Chief Michel Moore’s assessment that the shots fired by the officer on Oct. 29, 2018, were justified.
However, both Moore and the commission found that the officer and his partner should have de-escalated the situation by backing off and requesting help before attempting to handcuff the man, Albert Ramon Dorsey.
The vote was 4-0, with Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa absent.
“By not observing the warning signs of a potentially violent suspect, the officers acted too quickly and placed themselves at a tactical disadvantage during the incident,” Moore wrote in his report.
After failing to handcuff Dorsey, both officers tased him, according to the report. One officer, identified earlier by the LAPD as Edward Agdeppa, fired his gun at Dorsey five times because Dorsey was standing over his partner and punching her repeatedly in the face, the report said.
In emotional testimony before the five-member civilian Police Commission, Dorsey’s sister, Sonya Smith, described her brother as a “gentle giant” with a big heart who took care of a handicapped sibling. She accused the officers of feeling threatened by Dorsey because “he was big and black.”
Dorsey, 30, owned a car detailing business and had moved to L.A. from Maryland two weeks before his death to try to make it as a rapper.
Smith read letters from people who remembered Dorsey as a hard worker who sang while he polished cars, was unfailingly polite and could strike up a conversation with anyone.
The fatal encounter began with a 911 call from the 24 Hour Fitness on Sunset Boulevard about a naked man who was refusing to leave and had assaulted customers and security officers.
Agdeppa and his partner, who has not been identified by the LAPD, found Dorsey in a locker room undressed and toweling himself dry.
According to footage from the officers’ body cameras released by the LAPD, Dorsey did not obey the officers’ requests to put on his clothes and leave the gym.
Dorsey asked the officers what the problem was. They replied that he was causing a disturbance but did not elaborate.
Agdeppa quickly became exasperated, muttering “Jesus Christ” to himself.
As he pulled on black gloves, Agdeppa said under his breath, using a profanity, “I do not have time for this.”
He then said to Dorsey: “Are you going to get dressed? Or are we going to have to drag you out of here like this?”
As both officers shouted at Dorsey to put his clothes on, he began dancing to hip hop music coming from his phone.
After Dorsey pointed his middle finger at the officers, Agdeppa grabbed his arms and attempted to handcuff him.
A struggle ensued, with the officers cursing and repeatedly yelling at Dorsey to stop tensing up.
Both officers’ body cameras fell off early in the struggle. “If you want, we can all get along,” Dorsey said at one point.
There is audio but no video of the officers tasing Dorsey, then gunshots echoing across the locker room.
According to the LAPD, Dorsey was 6 feet 1 and 280 pounds, while Agdeppa was 5 feet 1 and the female officer was 5 feet 5.
Moore cited the size differential as one reason why the officers should not have confronted Dorsey on their own.
According to Moore’s report, the officers told LAPD investigators that their Tasers had no effect on Dorsey, who grabbed the female officer’s Taser and punched her in the face.
Agdeppa said his partner was crouched in a fetal position and trying to cover her face as Dorsey threw “massive punches at high velocity” with handcuffs partially attached to his wrist.
Agdeppa told investigators that he shot Dorsey to stop his partner from being seriously injured or killed.
“If I even waited any longer, that next punch could have been the deadly one,” the officer said. “And I did not want to take that chance.”
Moore determined that Agdeppa’s decision to use lethal force was reasonable, since Dorsey was engaged in a prolonged physical struggle with the officers, the Taser did not incapacitate him and he was hitting the female officer in the head while trying to grab her Taser.
After deliberating in closed session, the Police Commission came to a different conclusion on the shots fired by Agdeppa, which hit Dorsey multiple times in the torso.
The LAPD documented injuries to both officers: The female officer had swelling and bruising on her face, while Agdeppa suffered a broken nose.
Smith told the commission that she had watched the video and thought her brother’s behavior seemed reasonable. He just wanted to finish showering and dressing at his own pace, she said.
“They tried in no way to call for backup,” she said of the officers. “His life was taken senselessly. That was a brutal and hateful murder.”
Activists from Black Lives Matter and other groups condemned the shooting and questioned why both officers’ body cameras fell off as the struggle with Dorsey intensified.
“If he was unarmed, had no weapon and was naked, he didn’t deserve to live his last life like that,” said activist Dontaé Raymon Ivory.
At Tuesday’s Commission meeting, Moore called Dorsey’s death “tragic.”
He said he was prohibited by law from disclosing any discipline he would impose on the officers. But he emphasized that LAPD officers should know how to navigate tough situations without taking someone’s life.
“The department seeks to resolve instances peacefully without having to resort to force,” he said. “We look to hire people of the highest character and capability and the ability to be problem solvers and to negotiate and work their way through difficult circumstances … And when mistakes are made, there are consequences.”
Smith and her mother thanked Moore for his statement and embraced tearfully. Later, the activists broke out in a chant: “Say his name! Albert Ramon Dorsey!”