California attorney general launches investigation into LAPD shooting in Pico-Union

 A man holds a cellphone in a screenshot from body camera footage
Samuel Soto, 53, who had previously dropped a knife, holds a cellphone before he is shot by LAPD officers in Pico-Union in July.
(Los Angeles Police Department)

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office has opened an independent investigation into the July shooting of a 53-year-old man by Los Angeles police officers in Pico-Union, the office said Wednesday.

The investigation was spurred by the death of the man, Samuel Soto, on Tuesday from injuries suffered in the summer shooting, Bonta’s office said.

Soto was initially shot while holding a knife by the first officers who arrived on scene. Those officers took the knife away from him, and he was then shot again by newly arriving officers while holding a cellphone, according to body-camera video from the encounter.

The July 26 incident is the second LAPD shooting that Bonta has launched an investigation into since his office was afforded the power to investigate police shootings across California under a state law that took effect July 1.

The first was the fatal shooting of 48-year-old Matthew Sova on Hollywood Boulevard in July, after officers received calls about him threatening people with a gun, ran up and shot him as he lifted what they thought was a gun in his direction. Police have since said that Sova had a knife and a butane lighter with a pistol-like handle in his hand, but no gun.

The footage reflects the fast-moving nature of such incidents — and highlights how initial police statements about them can be inaccurate or misleading.

Aug. 25, 2021


Bonta’s office has also launched investigations into five other shootings by agencies around the state.

Both Sova’s shooting and Soto’s shooting also remain under investigation by the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, and the actions of the officers involved will ultimately go before the civilian Police Commission for review and a vote on whether they were justified.

The Times reported in August that an initial LAPD description of Soto’s shooting — that he had been found holding a knife and was shot after failing to comply with orders to drop it — did not tell the whole story.

Police said officers had received a call about 10:50 p.m. for a man with a knife, and found Soto with the knife near the intersection of Union Avenue and Pico Boulevard.

Body-camera video showed the first two officers to arrive jumped out of their vehicle, as one said, “Hey, let me see your hands, bro!”

Soto then charged toward one of the officers with the knife in hand and was shot multiple times, the video showed. After, one of the officers said, “I got the blade right here, bro,” indicating to his partner that Soto was no longer armed.

Soto then grunted and got back to his feet as the officers backed away and screamed at him to stop moving. A second pair of officers then pulled up and drew their weapons.

“No, no, no, he doesn’t have the knife!” the officer who previously took the weapon said. “He doesn’t have the knife!”


As Soto then turned to move toward the newly arrived officers, he was shot once more.