Commission rejected claim that the officer shot Brendon Glenn because he grabbed a pistol, putting more pressure on district attorney to charge the officer
Rory Carroll in Los Angeles
Tuesday 12 April 2016 21.01 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 12 April 2016 22.20 EDT
The Los Angeles police department’s civilian oversight board has called the shooting of a homeless man in Venice last year unjustified, increasing pressure on prosecutors to charge the officer.
The police commission rejected a claim by officer Clifford Proctor that he shot Brendon Glenn, a boardwalk skateboarder, because Glenn had grabbed his partner’s holster, according to records made public on Tuesday.
Video from a bar’s security camera contradicted Proctor’s version and prompted the commission – and LAPD chief Charlie Beck – to conclude that the officer violated department policy.
The revelation put more pressure on LA county district attorney Jackie Lacey, who is still reviewing the case, to charge Proctor. Prosecutors in LA have not charged a law enforcement officer with an on-duty shooting in 15 years.
The killing on 5 May 2015 triggered protests in Venice and intensified scrutiny of city police police amid a sharp spike in fatal shootings.
Beck’s report to the commission, which was made public on Tuesday, gave fresh details about the incident on the boardwalk, a bohemian mecca where homeless people mingle with tourists.
Proctor and his partner responded shortly before midnight to a complaint about a homeless man harassing customers outside the Bank of Venice restaurant on Windward avenue.
According to the officers, Glenn, 29, who is black, showed signs of intoxication, threatened to unleash his dog on them and shouted insults, including a racial epithet. Proctor is also black.
Glenn obeyed their order to leave the spot but swiftly got into an altercation with a bouncer at the Townhouse bar, prompting the officers to detain him, which led to a struggle that ended with the shooting.
According to the report released on Tuesday, Proctor told investigators Glenn reached for his partner’s holster as they struggled on the ground. “Everything was happening so fast,” Proctor said. “And everybody’s hands were flailing around.”
He shot Glenn in the back but Glenn did not seem to react. Proctor said he then had “a little tunnel vision” and fired a second shot. “I don’t really know where his hands were but he is still holding on.”
Proctor told investigators: “What was going through my mind when I fired the second shot was I honestly believed that this guy was on something strong, like some kind of drug. And the first round did absolutely nothing to affect him. He didn’t move.”
However, according to the report, video from the Townhouse bar, which has not been made public, contradicted Proctor’s version. “At no time during the incident can Glen’s hand be observed on or near any portion of (the) holster,” said the LAPD chief’s report. It also said that Proctor’s partner “did not feel any jerking movements” on the holster nor see Glenn reaching for his gun.
As protests flared in Venice, and scrutiny intensified over a spike in LAPD killings, Beck expressed his unease over the killing just a day after it happened: he called a press conference and said surveillance footage did not show the extraordinary circumstances expected when an officer shot an unarmed citizen. He followed up in January by recommending charges against Proctor, believed to be the first time an LAPD chief has made such a call publicly.
It represented a stark contrast with the 1990s when LAPD chiefs stuck by officers involved in the beating of Rodney King and other controversial incidents, triggering riots. The creation of a civilian oversight board was one of several reforms which has improved the department’s reputation.
The commission unanimously sided with Beck that Proctor had violated department policy.
Witnesses challenge San Francisco police account of homeless man's killing
Police department maintains man was ‘waving a large knife’, but witnesses say he was not threatening the officers before he was shot dead
Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Thursday 7 April 2016 18.28 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 12 April 2016 08.40 EDT
The San Francisco police chief’s account of the fatal shooting of a homeless man on Thursday was immediately challenged by two eyewitnesses, who said that the victim was not threatening police officers before he was killed.
The SFPD chief, Greg Suhr, said that police were called to a homeless encampment in the city by members of San Francisco’s homeless outreach team who reported a “suspect waving a large kitchen knife”.
Officers confronted a Latino man who refused their orders to drop his knife, even after he was shot four times with beanbag rounds, Suhr said.
The chief said the man then charged at the officers, and that two of them opened fire. Seven bullet casings were found at the scene.
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The man, who has not been identified, was transported to a local hospital and declared dead around 1pm.
However two witnesses, John Visor, 33, and Stephanie Grant, 31, who told the Guardian that they were less than 10ft away during the shooting, contradicted the police narrative.
“He didn’t charge at the officers. He was going in circles because he didn’t understand what they said,” Visor said. “He had a knife on him but he didn’t have it out. He had it on his hip, and when he hit the ground, that’s when it fell out.”
“They need to realize that some people don’t speak English,” Grant added. She also remarked on the speed of the encounter, saying: “They didn’t wait for anything. It all happened so fast.”
Witnesses John Visor and Stephanie Grant.
Witnesses John Visor and Stephanie Grant. Photograph: Julia Carrie Wong for the Guardian
The pair said that the police officers had approached them first, before spotting the man they knew as “Jose”, who they said was sitting against a wall. They claimed that the man only began to stand up when the officers approached him.
“One of the officers had a shotgun and hit him with bean bags, then the sergeant pulled his gun and shot him,” Visor said.
Grant said she believed that one of the shots was “in the head”.
The shooting took place in a homeless encampment on a side street in San Francisco’s Mission District. About 10 tents line the east side of a street that features tech offices, an auto shop, a parking lot and apartments.
Visor and Grant, a couple, said that they have been living in one of those tents for about a month, since moving to San Francisco from Colorado about a month ago. Jose had lived in nearby tent, they said, after he lost his apartment in the neighborhood.
Visor said the shooting victim spent his time collecting cans and kicking a soccer ball. Asked why the man might have had a knife, he replied: “He carries a knife for safety. Everyone does.”
“I lost a best friend,” Visor added. “He was a really good friend. He never hurt nobody.”
Thursday’s shooting is the first fatal police encounter in San Francisco since the shooting of Mario Woods in December 2015.
In the immediate aftermath of that shooting, Suhr also claimed that Woods had threatened police officers with a knife, but video of the shooting taken by a witness and released later appeared to contradict that claim.
Suhr and the police department have been the targets of intense criticism and protest since the Woods shooting. In February, the US Department of Justice agreed to begin a review of the department’s use of force policies at the request of the police chief and the mayor.
Last week, the scandal escalated when the city’s district attorney revealed that a second group of police officers were under investigation for exchanging racist and homophobic text messages.
Visor called into question the judgment of the police who opened fired.
“He needs to be suspended from the force,” he said of the officer who opened fire. “The sergeant should have called for backup, but instead he took it into his own hands.”
A view of the homeless encampment.
A view of the homeless encampment. Photograph: Julia Carrie Wong for the Guardian
The victim was a familiar figure to neighbors.
One woman who worked nearby began crying when she heard who the victim was. Farnaz, who asked not to be identified by her last name, said that she saw the man every day when she parked her car near his tent. The man frequently swept the street and sidewalk of trash, she recalled.
“My husband and I bring coffee and donuts to the homeless on Sunday mornings,” she said. “My husband and he would play soccer with my son.”
Another woman, who works at a tech company directly across the street from the site of the shooting, said that she had heard but not seen the shooting, and that the victim was very familiar to her.
“He’s on this block every day kicking a soccer ball,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “He never said a word. He seemed harmless, but definitely crazy,” she added, citing his tendency to run around the block.
Still, the woman said she never felt threatened by the residents of the homeless encampment.
“There’s so many homeless people on this block,” she said. “You get desensitized.”