Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said again Tuesday it was too early to say what led his officers to fatally shoot an unarmed car chase suspect, saying a “very thorough” investigation was underway.
Beck told reporters it would be “unfair” for him to comment until he had heard the officers’ accounts of the incident, seen evidence and consulted others involved in the use-of-force investigation, including the Los Angeles Police Commission’s independent inspector general and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
“I’ve got to let that process work.... I have an obligation not only to the public, but to the police officers that I command to do this correctly,” Beck said. “But the officers will be held out of the field while we make this judgment.”
Beck vowed his department would “go every inch of the way” to investigate Friday’s fatal shooting in downtown Los Angeles.
“If there’s training required, they’ll be trained,” Beck said. “If there’s discipline required, they’ll be disciplined. If not, we’ll move on.”
The chief’s comments followed the weekly Police Commission meeting, which opened with President Steve Soboroff reminding the public that multiple reviews of the incident were underway.
“That takes time,” he said. “And we have time to do things fairly and correctly.”
Brian Newt Beaird, 51, of Oceanside was shot to death by LAPD officers live on KTLA-TV at the end of a nearly hourlong pursuit just seconds after his Corvette collided with another car at an intersection, spinning it onto the sidewalk.
Beaird is seen on video getting out of the car and walking behind his silver Corvette while briefly raising his hands with his back to officers. While he is on the sidewalk, he grabs his stomach and falls to the ground after one or more officers open fire.
Investigators are examining whether any non-lethal munitions may have been fired prior to the gunfire, triggering the shooting. The footage from KTLA shows an object bounce and roll across the sidewalk almost simultaneously with gunfire.
Beck said Monday it was “way too early” to say whether the sound of a bean bag round being fired triggered the shooting. But he said Tuesday that, given “the situation as presented in this pursuit, a beanbag would be an option.”
He again cautioned that the perspective from the officers on the ground would be different than others who watched the pursuit on television.
“The officer’s perception is what matters during an officer-involved shooting,” Beck told reporters Tuesday. “They have a different set of inputs that somebody in a helicopter, a different set of inputs that someone sitting at home on their couch. So we rigorously inspect those inputs and how they made the decision.”
Beck told the Police Commission there have been 43 officer-involved shootings so far in 2013, up seven from 2012. But the 2013 number was “right at” the department’s five-year average and “well below” the 58 officer-involved shootings in 2011.
“Every shooting is looked at exhaustively and individually,” he said. “But we also track for trends and try to address those trends through training and officer selection.”
Friday’s incident began as a suspected drunk or reckless driver pursuit in Cudahy around 9:30 p.m. by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies; the LAPD took over the pursuit when it reached city limits.
With several LAPD cars following his Corvette, the suspect T-boned a Nissan crossing the intersection at Olympic Boulevard and Los Angeles Street, sending the passing car into a fire hydrant.
Beaird’s mangled Corvette spun to a rest on the street corner. He tried to pull away, but then abandoned the vehicle and got out, staggering around to the sidewalk on the passenger side.
He was surrounded by officers with patrol cars from the Newton Division when the gunfire rang out. He died less than an hour later at California Hospital Medical Center, authorities said.