Los Angeles police fatally shot a man on Sunday in an incident that was caught on video and circulated widely online, with the department saying officers resorted to deadly force after the man had reached for one of their guns.
The graphic footage, which appeared on Facebook, shows a violent altercation between a man and several officers in LA’s “Skid Row,” an area near downtown where many homeless people live.
The video appears to show the man flailing at officers as they try to subdue him.
A voice yelling “Drop the gun!” can be heard before several shots ring out and several onlookers cry out in alarm.
The Los Angeles Police Department said three police officers — a sergeant and two officers — fired at the man after he reached for an officer’s firearm during the altercation.
Police had been called to the scene over a reported robbery and were attempting to detain the suspect, who engaged in a fight, Commander Andrew Smith, LAPD spokesman, told AFP.
During the struggle, police also used a Taser, he said.
– Victim may have been homeless –
The man, whom US media initially reported to be living in one of the area’s many tents, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, Smith said, adding that he could not confirm whether the individual was homeless.
Skid Row is a run-down area that houses many hostels and services for the region’s homeless people, some of whom pitch tents on the sidewalks.
Witnesses said the man had been fighting with someone in his tent before the police arrived, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Investigations into the deadly incident will be conducted by an independent inspector general, the district attorney and the LAPD Force Investigation Division, Smith said.
He added that some of the officers are believed to have been wearing body cameras.
Two officers sustained minor injuries, and those who fired on the man have been removed from the field and assigned home for the time being, Smith added.
It was not yet known how many times the man was shot or how many officers were at the scene, the spokesman said.
He added that the coroner would release the individual’s identity after his next of kin are notified.
The video comes against a backdrop of highly publicized police shootings of black men that sparked weeks of protests late last year.
Some media reported that the man in the Skid Row shooting appeared to be black, but this was not clear from the video. At least one of the officers at the scene was black.
A local CBS television affiliate reported that tensions in the area remained high for hours after the shooting.
The video also shows police grabbing a woman after she picks up a baton that an officer dropped, then appears to raise it.
The woman is being detained, but has not yet been booked in jail, Smith said.