LOS ANGELES — The bystander who caught dramatic video of a fatal police shooting in Los Angeles said Monday he didn’t see the man reach for an officer’s gun — the initial explanation for the shooting given by police. Anthony Blackburn said Monday he was perplexed that four officers could not subdue the man but instead shot and killed him. Why didn’t they simply “shoot the man in the leg?” Blackburn asked. “He’s already on the ground.”
The shooting is the latest high-profile incident involving lethal force by police, in the wake of officer-involved killings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York last year.
Blackburn’s video from Sunday already has been watched millions of times. It starts with a man swinging his arms at police officers near the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row — a neighborhood rife with poverty. One officer tackles him, and three others try to subdue him. At least one pulls out a stun gun and tries to shock the man.
“Drop the gun!” a man yells.
Seconds later, five gunshots ring out, prompting shock and screams from bystanders.
“Why did y’all shoot that man?” one witness yells. “Y’all got (him) tased. Why did y’all shoot that man?”
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the man was suspected of robbery. When officers tried to arrest him, he started fighting with them.
Smith said police tried to shock him with a Taser, but that didn’t work. After the man reached for an officer’s gun, three officers fired at him, he said.
“I don’t know what they found on this individual,” Smith told CNN. “Obviously he didn’t have a firearm.”
Blackburn said he began filming the incident when police threatened to use their Tasers on the man.
He said he was standing about 20 feet away as the incident unfolded. He said the man was flailing from being repeatedly hit with the police stun guns, but said he never saw him reaching for a gun.
Another witness, Yolanda Young, told KTLA the man had been struck by three Tasers.
“He was down, but then he jumped up, like he was juiced up, and then he started swinging at the police and they were fighting him back. … They shot him five times,” Young said.
While police struggled with the man, another tussle broke out when one officer lost his baton. A bystander picked it up.
“Get my stick! Get my stick!” the officer yelled as other officers tackled the woman.
Witness Tonya Edwards told CNN affiliate KTLA-TV she knew the man who was shot, describing him as a homeless person who had “a lot of mental issues.”
Late Sunday, a crowd gathered at Los Angeles’ Pershing Square to remember the man, known as “Africa” and “Brother Africa.”
Los Angeles police said they will review video from various sources during their investigation of the shooting. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office will also launch an investigation, police said.
Los Angeles police senior lead officer Deon Joseph, a longtime Skid Row patrol officer profiled by CNN in January, wasn’t working when the shooting happened. But he said, “It looks like the officers had to make a tough call.”
“The system is really failing the mentally ill, as well as the cops who have to contact them,” he told CNN’s Ann O’Neill through Facebook. “I’m seeing so many more new faces in Skid Row. And many of them have serious issues. It’s really tough out there.”
Sara Sidner reported from Los Angeles. Holly Yan and Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Janet DiGiacomo and Christine Sever also contributed to this report.