HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif.—Police officers are not judges, juries or executioners, but three behaved as such when they fatally shot a double amputee, said outraged family members, activists, attorneys, and faith-based leaders.
According to the Huntington Police Department, Anthony Lowe, 36, threatened officers by attempting to throw a 12-inch butcher knife at them during an attempted arrest. Video footage from a nearby gas station and cell phone camera shows Mr. Lowe allegedly stabbing an unknown pedestrian. Shortly after, the Black father of two is seen out of his wheelchair, hobbling away from police, before being tasered and shot.
The officers have been placed on administrative leave. Huntington Park Police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office are investigating the shooting.
“Let’s call it what it is. It’s a straight murder,” said Attorney Christian Contreras, who represents Mr. Lowe’s 15-year-old son. He denounced the shooting, during a press conference on Feb. 2. Family members demanded the immediate prosecution of the three officers involved, and their identification, said Atty. Contreras, from Huntington Park, located about six miles south of Los Angeles. His firm has filed a damages claim against the Huntington Police Department on behalf of the son, in preparation of a wrongful death lawsuit for civil rights violations,
“I’ve got to deal with my son asking me why,” said Ebonique Simon, mother of Mr. Lowe’s son, during the news conference. “He just broke down yesterday, asking God, can he just get one more time, one more time with his dad,” said Ms. Simon. “He was running away from them and what’s really heartbreaking is that you can tell that he was in fear for his life. He had no legs. It could have been handled any other way,” added Ms. Simon.
After community pressure, Huntington Park Police Chief Cosme Lozano released the footage on Feb. 6, during a news conference. “I fully recognize the need for answers and the impulse to rush to judgment, but we must allow peace and patience to guide us through this process. … This is what transparency looks like, start to finish,” he stated.
“Put your body-worn cameras on your officers! We need transparency. We need the truth,” countered attorney Annee Della Donna, who represents Mr. Lowe’s mother, Dorothy.
“There was absolutely no reason to shoot a double amputee in the back 11 times, who was hobbling away from officers. He was a handicapped person, suffering from a mental crisis,” Atty. Donna told reporters outside the police station that same day. “He’s not even going towards the officers. He’s going away from the officers and they shoot him in the back,” she argued.
In response to The Final Call’s request for phone interview about the Jan. 26 shooting, a spokesperson for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department sent its press release, saying follow-up questions would be forwarded to investigators. The Final Call had not yet received a response to its questions at press time.
Where was the officers’ peace and patience for Mr. Lowe, some argued?
National Urban League leaders said the cold-blooded killing of a disabled man as he tried to flee police reveals an almost delusional mindset on the part of the Huntington Park officers who shot him, underscoring the urgency of transforming police culture and accountability.
“The officers’ confident expectation that their ludicrous account of the shooting would be accepted is as chilling as the shooting itself. Anthony Lowe is not the victim of rogue officers violating policies and procedures; he is the victim of a police culture that encourages casual and unjustified violence without the slightest expectation of consequences or discipline,” said Marc Morial, National Urban League president and CEO.
“I understand him being in a wheelchair and everything, but why would he attack somebody like that,” stated “Ramiro,” a man identified by FOX 11’s Good Day LA as the stabbing victim. In the exclusive interview, he stated that he’d never seen Mr. Lowe before.
Ramiro, who suffered a collapsed lung, according to FOX 11, said he noticed Mr. Lowe approaching as he was crossing the street, but thought nothing of it. When they were near each other, he alleged, Mr. Lowe said to him, “Are you all right?” He stated that he turned around and replied, “Yes.”
“At that time, he just punched me, but I didn’t see the knife on him. And I took two steps forward and that’s when I noticed the blood gushing out of the bottom of my armpit,” Ramiro told FOX 11’s Gigi Graciette.
“I’ve seen quite a few videos of Caucasian men brandishing weapons, ramming their cars, speaking all manner of illness towards police officers. And I’ve seen them exercise the utmost patience and care for White men, if they’re having a mental moment,” stated Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, Western Region Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“It seems as if this brother was having a mental moment, and I think there was a rush to judgment to shoot him and then of course, to justify it, because all the police officer has to say is the key sentence: ‘I feared for my life,’” Student Min. Muhammad continued.
What concerns activist Cliff Smith, founder of Community Control Over the Police, are contradictions from initial news reports that said Mr. Lowe “threw the knife, then was tased, then threw it again,” he said. Now, police are saying he “tried to” throw it, Mr. Smith told The Final Call.
The killing sparked the organization’s community march and protest on Feb. 5. A Jan. 26 L.A. County Sheriffs’ press release indicates that Mr. Lowe attempted to throw the knife at officers, was tased at least twice, which was ineffective, and then he attempted to throw the butcher knife at officers again.
The fact is Mr. Lowe was a suspect, when police engaged him on the sidewalk, argued Mr. Smith. The three officers on foot, with their weapons drawn, had ample opportunity to apprehend Mr. Lowe and let the justice system take its course, but they didn’t, he said. “There were three police vehicles that were immediately present. They had him completely outnumbered and out-armed,” Mr. Smith continued.