Following a fatal LAPD shooting, a family looks for answers

Los Angeles police officers walk past the department's headquarters.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Shameka Smith on Tuesday stood outside the Westlake apartment building where Los Angeles police had killed her husband the day before, wondering how things had gone so wrong.

“I begged them not to shoot him,” she said, as family members draped their arms over her shoulders to comfort her.

Smith and her relatives and friends called on the LAPD to release unedited video of the shooting recorded by officers’ body-worn cameras, saying they questioned department officials’ claim that Takar Smith was shot because he had raised a knife above his head as officers struggled to detain him.


Smith was pronounced dead at the apartment on the corner of West 2nd and South Witmer streets.

Relatives said that the 40-year-old father of six had been on medication the last several years to treat schizophrenia. But, his wife and others said, his mental health had been worsening, which had strained the couple’s relationship.

On Monday afternoon, his wife said, Smith became enraged and started throwing things around the apartment. When he refused to leave, she went down to the LAPD’s Rampart station to seek help. An officer at the front desk gave her the number for the department’s non-emergency dispatch, she said.

The Los Angeles Police Department said the man refused several orders to drop a sharp metal object and moved toward officers.

Jan. 4, 2023

A few hours later, a group of officers showed up and instructed her to wait outside while they checked on her husband, Shameka Smith said.

“Please don’t kill my husband,” she recalled telling the officers. “He’s not in his right mind.”

When one of her neighbors called down to tell Smith that it sounded as though her husband was tussling with police, she said ran back inside but was stopped in the hallway by an officer. As she stood there, listening to the commotion inside the apartment, what sounded like five gunshots popped off, she said.


In a statement released Wednesday, LAPD officials said officers were summoned to the address by someone reporting a violation of a domestic violence restraining order. According to the statement, officers encountered a man who refused to comply with their orders and who, after growing increasingly agitated, picked up a large knife. In response, officers used pepper spray and twice deployed a Taser, causing him to momentarily drop the blade, the statement said.

An unknown number of officers opened fire after the man picked the knife back up and raised it over his head, police said.

An officer in Guadalupe shot at a suspect who police believed was holding a gun; one bullet ricocheted off the ground, then hit a bystander in the head.

Jan. 3, 2023

At a candlelight vigil under cloudy skies Tuesday, relatives and friends of Smith’s said they questioned the LAPD’s version of events.

“The situation could’ve been handled differently and it didn’t have to escalate into gunshots,” said Omri Bookman, Shameka Smith’s sister. “As many officers as there were, somebody could’ve tackled him.”

The incident comes amid a years-long push by the Los Angeles Police Department to better respond to calls involving mentally ill people — namely by pairing some officers up with health professionals who are better equipped to de-escalate such situations. Several pilot programs to provide such alternative services have been launched.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore has expressed support for partnering officers with mental health workers but has maintained that incidents involving armed suspects require some sort of police response.


A day after the shooting of Takar Smith, the LAPD fatally shot another man after responding to a call of an assault with a deadly weapon in the 2700 block of South Central Avenue. A police news release Wednesday said the unidentified man threatened a motorist with a knife.

Responding officers found the man in the backyard of a nearby abandoned home, holding a long metallic object with a 3-inch spike “protruding from one end,” police said.

Police Chief Michel Moore apologized after sending an email about his bid for another term, one that stated he had the “full support” of Mayor Karen Bass.

Jan. 4, 2023

Officers ordered him to drop the object, police said. When he refused and stepped toward police, they simultaneously fired at him with a less-lethal weapon and their firearms, according to the department’s account, which The Times could not independently verify.

The metal object was recovered and appears to be the stem from an electric scooter “with a sharpened implement attached to one end,” police said.

Both incidents will be investigated by the LAPD’s Force Investigations Division and the findings presented to the civilian-led Police Commission, which will determine whether the officers involved followed department policy. Such investigations typically take several months and can last up to a year. A video summary of each shooting, including clips of footage from body-worn cameras of officers at the scene, must be released within 45 days, according to department rules.

No officers were injured in either case.

For the record:

3:15 p.m. Jan. 6, 2023An earlier version of this story said the state attorney general’s office would investigate the shooting that occurred on Central Avenue. Representatives from the attorney general’s office responded to the scene of that shooting but decided not to open an investigation.

Investigators from the the state attorney general’s office, which investigates most police shootings of unarmed individuals, responded to the shooting on Central Avenue, but elected not to open an investigation.

Last year, the department had 31 shootings, 14 of which were fatal, according to a department spokeswoman. In 2021, there were 37 police shootings.