Police shot and killed the driver of a Chevrolet Corvette after a wild pursuit. The man's friend said he suffered from a mental illness and questioned the use of lethal force. Gadi Schwartz reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013.
A 51-year-old man shot to death by police after a wild police pursuit in a Corvette was mentally ill, paranoid and needed help, not lethal force, a lifelong friend of the man told NBC4 News.
Brian Beaird, 51, of Oceanside, chose to run from Los Angeles police officers on Friday because he suffered from schizophrenia, said friend Gilbert Vasquez.
“He heard voices so he probably saw the helicopter lights, the lights of the cops pursuing him,” Vasquez said. “It scared the hell out of him.”
Beaird, a National Guard veteran, was identified as the man who swerved and sped through South Los Angeles for more than a hour before T-boning another car in an intersection and being shot by Los Angeles police at the end of the televised pursuit.
The passengers in the other car were injured and are going to survive.
Beaird was unarmed.
The pursuit began in Cudahy at 9:30 p.m., when deputies attempted to pull the driver over for drunk and reckless driving, officials said.
In a press conference earlier Monday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he would reserve comment until the investigation is complete.
“It’s very different to see something from 1,200 feet from a helicopter than 15 feet in the dust and the noise,” he said. “So I reserve judgment.”
When asked if the sound of a non-lethal beanbag round being shot may have prompted other officers to start firing, Beck didn’t answer directly. But he said that normally officers yell out to others to avoid firing in confusion.
“Before an officer discharges a beanbag, the protocol is to loudly state, ‘bean bag ready! Bean bag ready!’ so that everybody knows that the next detonation that they hear is not a gunshot,” he said.
The LAPD has not yet said if a bean bag was deployed.
But Vasquez insists his friend needed help and only non-lethal force should have been used.
“It's outrageous that this police department chose to use a shoot to kill policy on him,” Vasquez said. “He was unarmed. He didn't have anything.”