Call for probe after Los Angeles police kill homeless man

US civil rights leaders are calling for an independent investigation into the fatal police shooting of a homeless man.

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable president Earl Ofari Hutchinson has asked governor Jerry Brown to appoint a special investigator to examine the killing in the city’s Skid Row area. Police said a man identified as “Africa” was shot while grabbing for an officer’s gun during a struggle.

The shooting was captured on video by a witness and has been viewed more than six million times after being posted on Facebook. Hutchinson said he and other civil rights leaders want an impartial, transparent and speedy investigation to determine if the shooting was a crime.

Police Commission president Steve Soboroff said the independent inspector general and the district attorney have begun investigating. The graphic video shows the man wrestling with police amid the tents, sleeping bags and rubbish of Skid Row, where many of the city’s homeless live.

The three officers involved, one of whom is a sergeant, shot the man as they struggled on the ground for control of one police weapon, after a stun gun proved ineffective, LA Police Department Commander Andrew Smith said.

The officers had been responding to a report of a robbery. Police said they planned to use the video in their investigation. Smith said the department would attempt to amplify the video’s sound and pictures to work out exactly what happened. He said at least one of the officers was also wearing a body camera.

The video shows six officers initially responding to the scene and begin wrestling with the man as he takes swings at them.

Two officers break away to subdue and handcuff a woman who has picked up one of their batons.

The struggle becomes blurry and distant but shouting can be heard, including the word “gun”, followed by five apparent gunshots.

Witnesses told the LA Times that the man was known on the street as Africa, and that he had been there for four or five months.


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