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Video of arrest of homeless man in wheelchair sparks criticism

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Jackson, a homeless man on skid row, shot and narrated this video of police officers firing beanbags and a Taser at a man in a wheelchair on Broadway near 4th Street. The incident took place July 17.  

A video of police firing beanbags and a Taser at a homeless man in a wheelchair has drawn criticism from a skid row advocacy group, which said officers escalated force against someone who posed no threat.

“It didn’t appear that they were seriously worried about their safety,” said Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “It was easy enough to approach and have a conversation with a man in a wheelchair.”

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the man swung a pole at them when they tried to take him into custody at Broadway and 3rd Street.

The officers had been called to the scene about 7 a.m Friday by a worker for one of downtown Los Angeles’ business improvement districts, who reported he had fought off a man in a wheelchair who tried to hit him with a pole, police said.

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“They couldn’t get close because he had the pole,” Smith said.

The man, identified by police as Christopher Adam Zareck, 43, was treated at a nearby hospital and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. Smith said the extent of Zareck’s injuries was unknown, but included a head wound that occurred during the initial altercation with the business district worker.

The video shows 10 officers clustered about five to 10 feet away from the man in the wheelchair. Three shots ring out and the man, still seated, kicks his legs in the air and screams. The officers move in and appear to subdue the man, who is taken away by ambulance.

Hubert Jackson, a homeless skid row resident, made the video and turned it over to the Los Angeles Community Action Network, which released it Monday.

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Jackson said he saw police talking to a man in the middle of the block, which was cordoned off by officers, and began recording the scene on his cellphone.

“I hear a shot, then a second shot, and I hear the victim yelling in pain, as if gargling over something. Then there’s a second pause and a third shot,” Jackson said.

The pole is not visible on the video, and Jackson said he didn’t have a good enough view to see if the man had anything in his hands.

Smith said the investigation into the incident was in its early stages, and would include the officers’ use of less-than-lethal force.

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“We always look at whether the officers used the appropriate force at the appropriate time,” he said.

Zareck was sentenced to four years in state prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to driving under the influence and hit-and-run in Orange County, according to online court records. The LAPD arrested him earlier this year on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance, online records show.

White said he believed the tactics were unnecessary against a man sitting down in his wheelchair.

“Beanbags and Tasers, that could not be the only options,” White said. “This is how you de-escalate when the man is just sitting there?”

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Twitter: @geholland @katemather

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