By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
‘They executed that man’
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – As the Honorable Louis Farrakhan was delivering Pt. 2 of his poignant Saviours’ Day message of guidance and warning, “The Intensifying Universal Cry for Justice,” at Mosque Maryam in Chicago and addressing police killings and brutality, Los Angeles Police Department officers were involved in the fatal shooting of a homeless, mentally ill Black man that many witnesses said was unarmed.
The shooting occurred on Skid Row, a 50-block area of downtown L.A., known for the largest homeless population in America.
Ina Murphy told The Final Call she’d been speaking with her friend, known only on Skid Row as “Africa,” just five minutes before police killed him. The man had been on Skid Row for about six months, she said.
He and a “neighbor,” who lived side-by-side in tents had just finished fighting, she stated. “He was sitting down and I spoke with him and I asked him to be careful, because I just overheard the other guy calling someone on the phone to come down here,” Ms. Murphy said.
She went to a church, nearly a block away, and within five minutes, someone called her out to see what was happening.
She stood just outside the Central City Community Church of the Nazarene and lamented as choir songs flowed out of church doors and filled the air.
She and many who were homeless wanted answers about what they labeled a senseless killing.
“He had just told me he got out the mental institution he’d been in 10 years, and that the police was aware of his condition,” Ms. Murphy said. She cried and wiped her tears with a tissue.
“He’s not the type. I’ve never seen him be aggressive with the police. Whenever they told him to take down his tent or came over there to speak to them, he did exactly what they told him,” she said.
Ms. Murphy told The Final Call, “I just think it’s wrong. He was a beautiful person, and any time we needed help from him, he would help us.”
The shooting occurred at 11:50 a.m., according to General Dogon, a civil rights organizer on Skid Row. Three hours later as Skid Row residents, activists and news media waited for updates on the shooting from investigators, anger and frustration were evident.
“We’re out here trying to live! … You know us already! Ya’ll patrol these streets everyday! We see you everyday … Ya’ll gon’ shoot us? Ya’ll gon’ shoot us,” shouted one man at police who stood behind bright yellow crime scene tape that separated cops and onlookers.
“The community is still waiting for a response from LAPD,” Mr. Dogon said.
While police promised transparency, they immediately set up a press area behind the yellow tape and refused to allow community residents inside, he said.
“This is part of what people been complaining about with Chief (Charlie) Beck. There’s no transparency within the LAPD. There’s just no accountability, just running around here buck wild, shooting primarily as we all know Black folks, and the community is still waiting,” Mr. Dogon said.
Officers further incensed the community when a wall of about 30 policemen was formed and onlookers complained of attempts to intimidate them. “This is after you gun somebody down! You create a scrimmage line. They already hauled the body off. They were trying to play like he was still alive,” Mr. Dogon said.
Videos of the clash posted by Revolution News and the Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign went viral on social media. One video starts with officers trying to get Africa out of his tent. Footage shows officers tase Africa, then a tussle breaks out. The videos then show two officers on top of him. One officer who appears to be sitting on his back draws his gun and opens fire.
According to Officer Linton (she declined to give her first name), police responded to a robbery in progress.
“Something ensued that we’re not too sure about, and shots were fired. The suspect, he was transported to the hospital. We don’t know his condition,” Ofc. Linton told The Final Call at the scene.
The LAPD claimed in a press release that while the man was on the ground, he and officers struggled over an officer’s handgun and the shooting occurred. Two of the responding officers, one who is Black, suffered minor injuries and were treated and released, the LAPD reported.
The LAPD’s specialized Force Investigative Division will conduct an investigation in coordination with the LAPD’s Office of Inspector General.
Skid Row resident Lonnie Franklin felt officers handled the situation wrong from the beginning to the end. “Officers pulled up and drew their guns out. Told the man to get down, the man got down, then he got up and there was a little struggle. Next thing you know, they shot him,” Mr. Franklin said.
“He never had a weapon or anything. I never seen him go for their weapon. It was six officers against one individual. They resulted to lethal force. I felt that it was unnecessary, uncalled for, unwarranted,” he told The Final Call.
Dennis Horne, who also captured the shooting with his cell phone video camera, agreed. There was no way the officers could claim they were fearful for their lives when they encountered Africa, and the situation didn’t need to escalate, he argued.
“They can’t even use that. Fear for your life means it’s fixing to happen right now. Death might be coming. That wasn’t death. That wasn’t even a nightmare. That wasn’t even a bad dream,” he said.
Another witness, Christopher Como, said he was stunned by the traumatic incident. “They executed that man. They killed him,” Mr. Como told The Final Call. He said he’d prayed the cops used bean bags and not live rounds because they shot Africa so effortlessly.
“The man was not a threat to anyone’s safety … It’s just a typical case of abuse of power. The man was subdued. It was obvious he was not in the right mental state, but they had him subdued and long story short, they shot the man while he was on the ground,” Mr. Como said.
Some local media reports indicate one of the officers yells “drop your gun twice.” But footage shows one of the officers yelling, “get my stick, get my stick,” which he apparently dropped before jumping in to subdue the homeless man.
“We’re going to be subjected to more incidents like this, because that’s all they know how to do. That’s all they’re trained to do,” said Skid Row activist “D.J.” General Jeff. He and others including the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Pastor Cue Jn’marie, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, were planning at press time to voice their outrage and concerns at the LAPD Commission meeting March 3.
“It’s the same thing. Whenever something happens like this, it’s always the victim reached for the officer’s gun. That’s beginning to sound like something that’s scripted,” Pastor Jn’marie.