Two Los Angeles police officers who fatally shot a man who threw a beer bottle through their patrol car window had been warned in roll call meetings about a possible ambush after an online video showed a man flashing a gun while filming an LAPD officer, an attorney said Tuesday.
Attorney Gary Fullerton, who is representing the officers, said the video was discussed in at least two roll call meetings that the officers attended, including one the same day as Saturday night’s shooting. The officers watched the video, he said, and were also warned that they might be ambushed from behind.
“Both officers were very focused on that,” Fullerton said. “When the window got blown out, they looked at each other and said, ‘We’re being shot at.’”
Fullerton said that after the shooting, the officers told investigators they thought they were being attacked because of the video they had seen.
On Tuesday, LAPD officials said detectives now believe the 15-second clip was filmed and posted on Instagram by a 1990s rap group as part of a comeback attempt -- not to threaten police.
Fullerton said that even if the video wasn’t a threat, there are others who do want to harm police officers. He defended the officers’ actions, saying it was reasonable for them to think they were being fired upon.
“Officers feel very, very vulnerable out there right now. They feel that at any moment somebody could attack them,” he said. “The officers feel terrible because they were 100% convinced that the guy was shooting at them.”
The man’s name has not yet been released by coroner’s officials, who are still trying to locate his family. He was the 18th person shot and killed by LAPD officers this year.
LAPD officials said the man walked up behind the police cruiser, which was stopped at a red light in Van Nuys, and threw a 40-ounce beer bottle, shattering the car’s back window. The two officers bailed out of the car and opened fire, killing the man.
When investigators searched his body and the nearby scene, police said, they did not find a weapon.
In the days before the shooting, LAPD detectives had begun investigating the video circulating on social media.
The video was taken from a car parked behind a black-and-white LAPD cruiser, which was pulled over to the side of the road with its driver’s side door open. The camera filmed the patrol car first, then flashed down to show someone’s hand holding what LAPD Chief Charlie Beck described as a revolver.
The person briefly angles the gun for the camera before hiding it. The camera then cuts back to the patrol car, showing an officer getting out and walking away.
As detectives launched their investigation late last week, Beck said, rank-and-file officers were told about the video and directed to patrol in pairs. An LAPD spokesman said Monday that the video was also mentioned in roll call meetings.
“We took that very seriously,” Beck said. “The safety of my officers is of utmost importance to me.”
Beck said Tuesday that detectives had identified the man they believe was holding the gun in the video and had obtained a warrant for his arrest, alleging he broke the law by having a loaded gun in the vehicle. A “secondary suspect” involved in the video was arrested on an outstanding warrant in an unrelated case, he said.