- New Yorkers vow justice fight for father killed in hail of 50 bullets (FCN, 05-06-2008)
- The challenge of policing police brutality (FCN, 02-09-2004)
INGLEWOOD (FinalCall.com) – Two police officers who fired into a moving vehicle, killing 19-year-old Michael Byoune and injuring two others on May 11, were not under fire from the car’s three passengers as they had earlier reported, according to Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.
Chief Seabrooks made the announcement on May 14 to a host of reporters, community activists and city officials that were flanked by uniformed and undercover police officers in the lobby of the Inglewood Police Department.
Larry White was shot in the leg and Christopher Larkin suffered a bullet graze on the right side of his head. The two survivors have not been charged with any crimes.
According to Chief Seabrooks, at about 1:40 a.m., Officers Brian Ragan and Roman Fernandez, who have a combined total of 6 and a-half years on the force, were patrolling when they heard shots fired. They saw a man running from a hamburger stand and enter the back seat of a car that then drove toward them. During the same time, the officers heard shots being fired and believed they were coming from the car, about 30 feet in front of them. Both officers opened fire.
Chief Seabrooks said that although the officers did not see any weapons, their actions were not a violation of policy because they reasonably believed that they were in danger.
It turned out that their victims were unarmed and the shots fired were not coming from inside their vehicle. Police say they have not yet determined where the shots originated.
Steven Bertrand, Mr. Byoune’s oldest brother, said that the police and city officials’ apologies are insufficient.
“They are trying to hide a lot of things and what they said just doesn’t make sense, for instance, shooting because a car is coming towards them? Of course you will be head on with a car in opposite traffic. I believe the officers should do jail time as anyone else who shoots someone for no justified reason,” Mr. Bertrand told The Final Call.
Mr. Bertrand said his brother was a clean guy who had just finished several Job Corp. classes and was planning for his future.
“I won’t characterize this as a mistake. What I will say is the process that the officers went through ended with a very tragic outcome,” Chief Seabrooks said.
“This has been a breakdown in training and they were trained to shoot only if it was imminently necessary. Only if the brother was running with a gun and firing at them would they have been justified to do this, shoot without warning,” said Atty. Carl Douglas, a representative for the three men and their families.
“The Department is using standard operation procedures for cover-up. The key is that they feel or believe their lives are in danger when it comes to Black people. We don’t need a press conference on the way to truth; give us a press conference when you have reached truth,” said Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.
Tony Wafford, of the National Action Network Los Angeles, said the tragedy rests in the training of new recruits. “What happens often is that police officers, who have violations on larger departments get fired and come to smaller ones, so we need to delve into that,” he said.
The Inglewood Police Department and L.A. District Attorney’s Office are conducting investigations.