More than two weeks after a deadly encounter between police and a homeless man on skid row, Los Angeles police officials on Thursday publicly named the sergeant and two officers who fired their weapons.
The department identified those who shot Charly Keunang on March 1 as Sgt. Chand Syed and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres.
LAPD records showed Martinez had been with the department for 12 years; Syed for eight years and Torres for six. Police officials have said the sergeant and officers had never before fired their weapons on duty.
The March 1 shooting drew international attention after a bystander recorded video of the incident and posted it to Facebook, where it was viewed millions of times. The LAPD said the officers were responding to a 911 call reporting some type of robbery or assault when the suspect -- identified as Keunang -- refused to comply with directions and instead tried to fight. Police said the man grabbed a rookie officer’s holstered pistol, prompting the three others to open fire.
The LAPD did not name the rookie officer, who has less than a year’s experience in the field.
The incident highlighted the often-tense relationship between police and residents on skid row, the stretch of downtown L.A. that is heavily populated by homeless people. Police point to the difficulties of patrolling an area where many inhabitants struggle with mental illness and drug abuse. But many who live in the tent encampments, as well as their advocates, criticize police tactics, which they say are too aggressive.
The man killed was known to others on skid row as “Africa” or “Cameroon.” He was later identified by coroner’s officials as Keunang, 43.
Authorities said Keunang, a Cameroonian national, was involved in a 2000 bank robbery in Thousand Oaks and was convicted for the crime under an identity he had stolen in France.
Coroner’s officials said he died from “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The sergeant and officers involved have since been assigned to administrative duties out of the field. Investigations into the incident are ongoing.
On Thursday, activists gathered at the spot where Keunang was killed, calling for an independent investigation into the shooting and for police to release footage from the body cameras the sergeant and an officer were wearing at the time.
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