Family and friends gather at Westlake vigil for man fatally shot by LAPD
Several dozen mourners gathered for a vigil Wednesday on a Westlake block, near where 35-year-old Giovanni Luna was shot and killed by LAPD during a foot chase.
As dusk fell over the Westlake District in Central Los Angeles, several dozen mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil near the spot where a 35-year-old man was shot dead by police during a foot chase that started when officers reportedly saw him with a gun.
Giovanni Luna was walking near the intersection of Sixth Street and Rampart Boulevard about 3:20 a.m. Saturday when the pursuit began, police said. The chase ended half a block away in a hail of police bullets.
On Wednesday, about 20 of Luna’s family members and friends returned to the spot, huddling over a makeshift memorial of votive candles arranged in the shape of a heart. A large photo of Luna hung over the candles. His brother moved solemnly through the crowd, passing out flowers to mourners with tear-streaked faces.
He handed one to Patricia Guevara, Luna’s former girlfriend, who attended the vigil with their 14-year-old daughter, Starla Luna. Guevara said losing Luna was difficult enough, but in recent days she found herself fighting to get answers from police about the circumstances around his death.
“I want LAPD to take accountability for murdering him,” she said.
But she has tried to put on a brave face in front of their daughter, who more than once has broken down at home remembering her dad.
Luna, Guevara said, worked odd jobs to make ends meet, most recently doing private security for a TikTok influencer, whose name she couldn’t immediately recall. He was also a doting father, she added: “His daughter was his everything.”
Frustration crept into her voice as she began discussing the incident and officers’ delay in providing aid after shooting Luna. Grainy cellphone video of its aftermath showed Luna’s body lying on the sidewalk, as officers stood watching from several feet away.
Under Los Angeles Police Department policy, officers are required to provide aid to people they’ve just shot, but in practice they routinely wait several minutes before approaching, and then focus on handcuffing and searching them.
Another video recorded by a neighbor shows two officers running down the middle of the street with guns drawn yelling at Luna to “drop it,” before opening fire. The brief recording doesn’t show Luna, who is obscured by a tree. After firing several shots, the officers are seen moving toward Luna.
Guevara questioned the need to use deadly force in the first place, saying that, despite their de-escalation training, officers seem quick to use their weapons — and later claim they feared for their lives. Guevara said that, in her job as a nurse at an area hospital, she is regularly confronted with unruly patients, some of whom are armed. But, she said, she is expected to try to resolve the situation peacefully.
“I’ll tell you what: If [someone] tried to pull a knife on me, and I punched them, guess who loses their license? Me. Because I’m a trained professional,” she said.
Other friends said Luna had struggled with his mental health in the past, which sometimes made him prone to angry outbursts and had led to several previous run-ins with law enforcement. In June, he reportedly led California Highway Patrol officers on a chase that ended when the black 2007 Mercedes he was driving crashed on Highway 134 and burst into flames.
Luna suffered a fractured skull and other injuries that doctors at the time deemed to be life-threatening, but he was later discharged, friends said.
On Saturday, officers on patrol were waiting at a red light when they heard gunfire and saw a man, later identified as Luna, running past them holding a handgun, Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission on Tuesday.
Believing he may have been responsible for the shots fired, the officers confronted Luna and shot at him, Moore said. It is not clear whether he was struck by the first volley of bullets. Luna then ran north on Rampart, and officers chased him on foot; they caught up to him about half a block away in a mostly residential area and shot him a second time, killing him.
The Police Department’s account could not be independently verified.
At a community meeting Thursday evening, LAPD Rampart Division Capt. James Roberts said further investigation suggests Luna had shot another man moments before he encountered police — though officers were not aware of this when they spotted him.
One resident said that even if Luna had been a suspect in a shooting, he should still be alive to face trial.
“I don’t believe that police should be Judge Dredd,” the man said, according to a livestream of the meeting.
“Well, I respect your opinion,” Roberts responded. He also disputed the suggestion that officers didn’t immediately render aid to Luna, saying body-camera footage of the encounter will prove they responded quickly.
“Actually it was heartfelt what I saw, because one minute these officers were afraid they were gonna die, the next minute they were rendering aid to the man they thought they were gonna die from,” he said.
Several other speakers grilled the officers about reports that some of the rounds fired by police at Luna had sailed into a nearby apartment building. One woman said a bullet had lodged into a piece of her furniture. Roberts encouraged those residents to speak with investigators.
There were several testy exchanges, including when one resident said he was disheartened to hear the “LAPD had killed” someone outside of his home.
The comment prompted a bristling response from Roberts, who argued that this was the division’s first fatal police shooting of the year.
“Do you know how many people have been killed at the hands of others in Rampart this year? Guess. Guess. 15!” Roberts said.
As with most fatal police shootings, the incident is under investigation by the department’s Force Investigation Division. The investigation’s findings will be reviewed by Moore and the civilian-run commission; such reviews can take up to a year.
In most cases, the department releases video from police body cameras or security cameras within 45 days of an incident.
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