A group of activists gathered at an intersection near the border of Palms and Culver City on Friday to call for justice for a man shot and killed by Los Angeles police last weekend.
“Victor Valencia was houseless and apparently struggled with mental health issues,” said Adam Smith, an organizer with White People 4 Black Lives. “Should being poor and sick in Los Angeles be a death sentence?”
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office has not released the name of the man killed in the police shooting, but activists and Police Chief Michel Moore identified him as Valencia. The coroner’s office said that its records indicate the man killed was not homeless, but the activists said people at a nearby encampment recently asked Valencia to leave because of his struggles with mental health.
The rally followed a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday during which Moore suggested that Valencia was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
According to Moore, officers received a radio call reporting a man with a gun in the area of South Sepulveda and South Venice boulevards about 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
The intersection is about a block away from a homeless encampment that’s tucked under the overpass of the 405 Freeway. It sits at the border of Los Angeles and Culver City; the shooting took place on the Culver City side, Moore said.
A field supervisor assigned to the LAPD’s Pacific Patrol Division was in the area and responded to the call. When he arrived, the supervisor saw a man later identified as Valencia pointing what he believed to be a handgun at him, Moore said. The supervisor fired an unknown number of rounds, striking Valencia, who was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. The supervisor’s name has not been released.
“A bicycle part with a physical makeup very similar to a handgun was located at the scene,” Moore said.
Details of what precipitated the shooting have not been released.
“I don’t care if he had a hot dog that looked like a gun — it wasn’t a gun,” said General Dogon, an organizer with the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
The activists are calling on the LAPD to release the transcript of the 911 call reporting a man with a gun, the body camera footage of the shooting and the name of the officer involved. They also want police to produce photos of the bicycle part that prompted the encounter.
Under rules adopted by the Police Commission in 2018, video from “critical incidents” involving the police automatically become public within 45 days after they occur, but the activists are calling for the LAPD to release the footage immediately.
“We’ve got to make them stand accountable for Victor,” Dogon said.
The shooting, advocates say, comes at a time of heightened tension between Los Angeles authorities and the city’s growing homeless population. They say that homeless people have been targeted by increased enforcement, including ramped-up sweeps of encampments, since the start of the year.
Homeless people also have been dying in record numbers on the streets of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found in October that deaths among homeless people have increased each year, from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018. As of December, the tally for 2019 was 963, it said.
At the rally Friday, the activists held a banner printed with a rough map of where the homeless deaths took place in 2019 and the slogan “3 A Day in L.A.” — the approximate rate at which unsheltered people are dying.
“We continue to see LAPD as first responders to the struggles of poverty,” Smith said. “We continue to see LAPD as first responders to struggles with mental health. ... And that increased enforcement and contact with the LAPD will continue to produce dire outcomes.”