A recent string of police in Los Angeles killing men of color has caused some serious concern among city officials.
In just two days, three men of color were killed by LAPD, one of which involved a Black man who was having a mental health crisis.
On Jan. 2, Takar Smith, 45, was shot and killed by two LAPD officers after he raised a 10-inch (25-centimeter) butcher-style knife above his head during an altercation with officers. Before using lethal force, police also used a stun gun and pepper spray.
According to AP, Smith’s wife called the police to enforce a restraining order against him but warned officers that her husband had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had not been taking his medication. She also warned of his aggressive nature telling the dispatcher, “He’s not in his right mind.”
Instead of calling for a specially trained mental health team, LAPD took an aggressive approach and approached Smith with their weapon drawn. After a 15-minute altercation with police, Smith became increasingly manic and incoherent, grabbing a knife from the kitchen counter. Officers yelled at Smith to “drop the knife,” pepper spraying then tasing him until he fell to his knees pleading with officers to “get away!”
Smith then picked the knife up he a dropped after being stunned and lifted it above his head. Two officers then fired seven shots, killing Smith on the scene.
A day later, Jan. 3, Keenan Anderson, 31, got into a traffic accident around 3:30 p.m. at Venice and Lincoln boulevard.
When police arrived on the scene, Anderson was visibly shaken up from the accident, but officers aggressively engaged with Anderson, which escalated the situation.
Officials said once more units arrived, Anderson started to get nervous and began to flee the scene.
That’s when, “officers struggled with Anderson for several minutes, utilizing a TASER, bodyweight, firm grips, and joint locks to overcome resistance,” the LAPD said in a written press release.
But body-camera footage, which was released this week, paints a picture of a scared Black man pleading for help as officers overwhelm him from all angles.
His visible screams of “Help me please” are jarring to watch.
Anderson, who is the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, was a dedicated high school teacher and father.
On the same day, police killed Keenan Anderson, they also shot and killed Oscar Sanchez in South L.A., another man of color.
Video of all three police killings has been released to the public.
During a press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the police shootings “deeply disturbing.”
“Especially as a former health care professional, I am deeply troubled that mental health experts were not called in, even when there was a documented history of past mental health crisis,” Bass said in a statement, addressing Smith’s death. “When there is no immediate risk to others, law enforcement must not be the first responder when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. I believe officers and Angelenos agree on this.”
She also assured the community that a thorough investigation was underway.
“Full investigations are underway, and I pledge that the City’s investigations into these deaths will be transparent and will reflect the values of Los Angeles,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a press release. “I will ensure that the City’s investigations will drive only toward truth and accountability. Furthermore, the officers involved must be placed on immediate leave.”
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