Less than a month into his tenure as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Michel Moore has had to guide his department, and indeed the entire city, through Saturday’s tragic incident in Silver Lake. That’s where a Trader Joe’s manager was killed by police crossfire following a horrid spasm of violence that began, police say, when a man shot his grandmother and another woman in South Los Angeles, then kidnapped the woman and drove from the scene, shot from his car at officers when they spotted him in Hollywood, crashed near the crowded Silver Lake store, engaged in a shootout with police, and held shoppers and employees hostage in the store during three hours of tense negotiations.
Of course there remain unanswered questions about police tactics and protocols, and profound grief at the death of an innocent bystander.
For the present though, one thing stands out: Moore has responded with welcome candor. In quickly releasing segments of in-car and officer-worn body camera video, he and the LAPD gave residents a revealing view of police response and an understanding of the circumstances that officers faced. The Police Commission recently adopted a policy that gives the department up to 45 days to release bodycam or dashboard video of an incident. Moore showed good judgment in releasing portions almost right away.
And in disclosing Tuesday that it was a police bullet that ended the life of store manager Melyda Marciela Corado, Moore was forthright and exhibited a convincing and appropriate measure of sympathy to Corado’s family, friends and co-workers. It’s a horrible thing to have to acknowledge, and Moore could have delayed the announcement or buffered it with defensive statements. He did neither.
He also was correct in laying ultimate responsibility for the killing at the feet of the suspect, identified as Gene Atkins. As Moore noted, the death shows the destruction that a lone person with a handgun can wreak on a community.
In coming weeks, let’s hope that the chief will be equally candid with any conclusions he and his command staff reach regarding the decision-making that occurred as the incident unfolded. It is easy enough for non-experts to draw conclusions after the fact about whether the right personnel were called in at the right time, or whether officers were right to have fired under the circumstances, but the department owes the public — after adequate time for full investigation — an accounting of what mistakes were made and what lessons learned, if any.
It’s important as well to remember that the outpouring of grief for Corado is echoed with depressing frequency across the city by other families who lose loved ones to police bullets. Some victims are as innocent as she, others less so. But in all cases, the LAPD should work to be as candid as in the Trader Joe’s incident — and as focused on minimizing future losses of life.