Panel rules LAPD officers justified in fatal shooting of man on busy Hollywood Boulevard
The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled Tuesday that two LAPD officers were justified in fatally shooting a 48-year-old man holding a butane lighter and a small knife on a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard last summer.
In a 4-0 vote, the commission agreed with LAPD Chief Michel Moore that the officers had acted reasonably and followed department policy in shooting the man, identified as Matthew James Sova.
A report on the shooting submitted by Moore to the commission found that both of the officers believed Sova had a gun in his hand, believed he was going to kill them and maybe others if they didn’t shoot him first and rush toward him because they were worried about bystanders being in their line of fire if they had to engage him from farther away.
“I knew it’s a deadly force situation, either he’s going to kill me or I’m going [to] have to take action,” Officer Isaiah Galvez told investigators, according to the report.
The second officer, Christopher Tabela, told investigators he feared that Sova “intended to kill him then start shooting at people on the sidewalk,” or to enter a nearby McDonald’s and “take hostages.”
The shooting occurred about 11:20 a.m. on July 15 near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, and sent tourists and locals scattering.
“People started scrambling, and there’s kids crying and moms trying to get out of there and tourists confused, and then of course everyone’s cellphones started popping out,” said one local resident at the time. “It was wild.”
The shooting also quickly drew condemnation from activists and other police reform advocates after initial reports of the man having a gun proved false.
California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office announced that it would conduct its own, independent investigation of the shooting, saying it would “take every step necessary to ensure a thorough, impartial investigation and review is completed.”
Bonta’s office did not respond to questions about that status of that investigation Tuesday.
Prior to the shooting, a 911 caller had described Sova as “screaming and harassing people” with “what looks to be a pistol in his hand,” according to a recording of the call released by police.
Body-camera video also released by police showed Galvez and Tabela drive into the area, jump out of their car and immediately run toward Sova, who was standing on the sidewalk near a McDonald’s and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.
As Sova lifted the lighter, which had a pistol-like grip, in their direction, the officers fired six rounds at him as three bystanders on the sidewalk watched from feet away, the video showed.
Sova then fell to the ground and dropped the lighter, while maintaining his grip on a black folding knife that he also had in his hand, the video showed.
“Man, why?” said one of the officers as they handcuffed Sova on the star-lined sidewalk.
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