Anger dominated a town hall meeting at a Venice elementary school Thursday night about the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man near the famed Venice Beach boardwalk.
Shouts of “Murder!” and “Show the tape!” rang out from the standing- room-only crowd at Westminster Avenue Elementary School as Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Bea Girmala spoke.
When one man challenged Girmala to say murder, she responded, “I am not going to say that. The investigation is still ongoing.”
Girmala said the video of the shooting is not being released because “we cannot taint the memories of witnesses.”
One man said one reason for the crowd’s anger is “they’re seeing a lot of deflection.”
Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, defended the department’s officers, saying “97 percent of these officers … have never used their guns. (That) shows the kind of restraint.”
With the investigation into Tuesday night’s shooting still in its infancy, no answers about the reasons for the shooting were forthcoming from police and city officials, and then quickly grew restless.
The shooting occurred around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday on Windward Avenue just west of Pacific Avenue. The homeless man was black, as is the officer who shot him.
Police said two officers initially responded to a call about a person harassing people on Windward Avenue. They spoke briefly to the suspect, who walked away toward the boardwalk, police said.
The officers returned to their car but then saw the suspect struggling with someone — apparently a bouncer at the Townhouse bar — on the sidewalk. The officers approached and a struggle ensued, ending with the shooting. ABC7 reported that the suspect — identified by friends as 29-year-old Brendon Glenn — was shot twice in the side.
One of the officers involved in the shooting suffered a knee injury, according to the LAPD.
The shooting has sparked outrage from some in the community. A vigil has been growing at the scene of the shooting, and dozens of people marched through the Venice area today demanding answers.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday he was concerned about the shooting, saying it generally takes “extraordinary circumstances” for police to shoot an unarmed person, and the surveillance footage he watched of the shooting didn’t appear to show any such circumstances.
The remark quickly earned Beck a rebuke from Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers. Lally called Beck’s comments “completely irresponsible” and said it is too early to suggest the shooting may have been improper.
“As the final trier of fact in the use-of-force investigation and disciplinary process, the premature decision by the chief essentially renders the investigation process void,” Lally said. “Additionally, by making his opinion public without having all of the facts, he influences the investigation for all parties involved, including his command officers and the public.
“As in the criminal justice system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We encourage everyone to reserve judgment until the investigation has run its course, and the facts are collected and assessed,” Lally said.
Beck was on the defensive today, saying on a morning television news show that he had not reached any conclusions about the shooting, and was only describing what he had seen on the surveillance footage.
It is that video that attendees at the community meeting were demanding to see.
Beck stressed that there was still a long way to go in the investigation.
Acquaintances of Glenn told reporters that he had moved to the area from New York and struggled with drugs and alcohol. Glenn had sought shelter and assistance at The Teen Project’s Venice P.A.D. homeless center, according to the center’s Timothy Pardue.
People who knew Glenn told the Los Angeles Times that he was a kind man who constantly told people he loved them. He was known for his “hand hugs — grabbing hold of someones hand before saying goodbye. Glenn treated his black Lab mix, Dozer, like “his baby, one man told the newspaper.
But they acknowledged he also had his struggles, The Times reported.
“He was a drinker. He has a drinking problem,” Allison Holden, 23, who is also homeless, told The Times. “But we all have problems.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called on Beck this morning to authorize a review of the videotape of the shooting by a panel of civil rights leaders “to determine whether (Glenn) posed an imminent threat to the officers.”
“A review of the videotape by a civil rights leaders panel would be a first by a police department and civil rights leaders,” Hutchinson’s statement said. “It would be a bold step by LAPD Chief Beck to fulfill his pledge of complete transparency in the investigation of the slaying.”
Beck said the department is working with the District Attorney’s Office and the LAPD’s independent inspector general to investigate the shooting.
“We will expend all resources to find out the truth of what happened (Tuesday) night on Windward Avenue,” he said.