LAPD sends dive unit to look for potential evidence after fatal police shooting

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The LAPD sent its dive unit into a Van Nuys storm drain Thursday, looking for an “unknown dark object” that officers told investigators they saw a man holding before they fatally shot him.

Police said the man threw a 40-ounce beer bottle through the back window of the officers’ patrol car on Saturday night, prompting them to bail out and open fire. The man died at the scene.

On Thursday, the LAPD said the officers also told investigators that after they got out of the car, they saw the man pointing toward them with something in his hand, causing them to think he “posed an imminent threat.”


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Police did not find the object -- or any weapon -- at the scene, an LAPD spokesman said. Cmdr. Andrew Smith said investigators brought in the dive team on Thursday, thinking the rain that fell intermittently after the shooting might have washed the object down a storm drain near where the man died.

It was “unlikely that anything would still be there,” Smith said, but investigators wanted to be sure. Nothing was found during the search.

“If there was something, there was a chance that it could have flowed out the other end,” he said.

Smith said the officers mentioned the dark object during their initial interview with investigators the night of the shooting. He said the department waited to release it because the case was still fresh and investigators did not want to affect the statements of other potential witnesses.

Smith said investigators had other evidence to sort through, including surveillance video, forensic evidence and interviews with officers and a witness who was standing nearby.


The LAPD said that witness described the man’s actions in a way that was “consistent with him throwing an object from a very close range at the rear window of the police car.” Smith declined to say Friday what else that witness told police.

“This investigation is less than a week old. It’s in the very, very early stages,” Smith said. “It’s way too early to draw any conclusions about this shooting, whether it was proper or not.”

An attorney representing the two officers has defended their actions, saying they believed they were being fired upon when the back window of their car shattered. Gary Fullerton said Friday that it was possible that his clients believed they saw the man holding something even if he wasn’t.

“The mind isn’t a video recorder. The mind sees what it thinks it’s gonna see,” he said. “There may be an object, there may not be, because your mind is telling you what it thinks is happening. At that point, the officers are 100% certain they’re being shot at.”

Fullerton said the officers were consistent with their accounts and “didn’t have time to get together and say, ‘Let’s say he had a gun.’”

“I absolutely 100% believe them,” he said. “They’re scared to death because they’re going to get second-guessed by everybody in the world. ... There’s a lot of people out there who will say, ‘Oh, they’re just liars like every other cop is.’”


The name of the man who was fatally shot has not been released. A coroner’s spokesman said Friday that officials are still trying to find the man’s relatives to notify them of his death.

The names of the officers have also not been released. The LAPD said they would be made public after the department finishes a “threat assessment” to determine whether there are any credible threats to their safety.

Both officers have been assigned administrative duties, Smith said Friday.

The shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m. Saturday as the officers were waiting to turn onto Victory Boulevard from Sepulveda Boulevard. Police said the man walked up to their patrol car from behind and threw the bottle through the back window.

He was the 18th person fatally shot by Los Angeles police so far this year.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.


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