A California Highway Patrol officer fatally shot a man on a Los Angeles freeway Sunday during a struggle that was partially caught on video.
State authorities have launched a probe into the deadly encounter that began when the officer responded to Interstate 105 for a call about a man walking on the freeway.
Video of the confrontation, shot by a witness and posted on social media, starts with the officer on top of the man as the two wrestle on the ground.
After a few seconds, the officer attempts to get to his feet and pulls his gun as the man appears to kick at him.
The officer then fired multiple times at the man who was motionless following the gunfire.
The officer keeps his gun drawn for about a minute before the video cuts out.
The state highway patrol said it received calls about the man walking on the freeway before responding to the scene.
“During the contact with the pedestrian, a struggle ensued and an officer involved shooting occurred,” CHP said in its statement.
Further questions about the incident were referred to the California Department of Justice, which confirmed it is investigating the shooting.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office confirmed the person died, but did not provide an identification or cause of death.
Los Angeles Councilman Tim McOsker, State Senator Steven Bradford and State Assemblyman Mike Gipson issued a joint statement calling for a thorough investigation into the shooting and peace in the community as the inquiry is conducted.
“The video is shocking and this shooting must be fully investigated expeditiously,” McOsker said in a statement, urging transparency.
Bradford said the shooting “appears to be an unnecessary use of deadly force.”
Travis Norton, a law enforcement officer who leads the California Assn. of Tactical Officer After Action Review, cautioned to the Los Angeles Times that footage is a limited way to flush out a police shooting.
“It is hard to diagnose without knowing what the officer saw, experienced and interpreted was happening,” Norton told the newspaper.
“All I see is a very short scuffle. I see the suspect point something that appears to look like some sort of weapon. … From the video, without knowing anything else about it, the use of deadly force appears appropriate.”
While use-of-force expert Ed Obayashi also cautioned about jumping to conclusions from the video, he said investigators will want to know why the officer approached the man without backup nearby.
“They were able to close the freeway, so presumably there was law enforcement in the area,” said Obayashi, who investigates police shootings for law enforcement agencies in California.
He also stressed the probe will focus on if the man was armed and why the officer fired his gun after he stood up and away from the struggle.
“Was there a knife? Or a stun gun?” Obayashi said investigators will ask. “We don’t know what kind of threat this officer perceived.”
With Post wires
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