Sheriff Says Department Is Investigating Possibility Teen Got Rid of Gun Deputies Saw Before He Was Shot - NBC Southern California

Sheriff Says Department Is Investigating Possibility Teen Got Rid of Gun Deputies Saw Before He Was Shot

Department officials have said a gun was seen in the 16-year-old's waistband before at least one deputy opened fire

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    Sheriff Says Department Is Investigating Possibility Teen Got Rid of Gun Deputies Saw Before He Was Shot
    Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell

    Sharing new details of the investigation into use of deadly force Sunday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell acknowledged Thursday the possibility the 16-year-old suspect may not have been armed when he was shot.

    Since the death of Anthony Weber, the Sheriff's Department has faced intense criticism from his family and others who insist he did not have a gun.

    Department officials, including McDonnell, have said a gun was seen in Weber's waistband before he led deputies on a brief foot chase that ended with at least one of the deputies firing.

    What department officials cannot say with certainty is what became of that suspect gun, and when it disappeared.

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    According to the department's accounts, deputies encountered Weber while responding to a call from a motorist. The 911 caller said a young man walked out and pointed a gun at him as he drove past an apartment complex on 107th Street near Budlong Avenue in the Westmont neighborhood of South Los Angeles.

    Deputies saw that Weber fit the suspect's description, the department has said.

    When they approached, he ran, with deputies chasing after him. After a short distance, Weber turned, and at that point one of the deputies opened fire, according to Capt. Christopher Bergner. He described Weber as a known gang member, and said the apartment property is known as a gang hangout.

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    After the shooting, a crowd gathered in the courtyard, and deputies did not have control of the scene until backup arrived.

    It was during that chaotic time that authorities suspect the gun was taken, Bergner said during a media briefing Monday.

    In his comments Thursday, McDonnell said that is still regarded as a possibility, but also disclosed another — that Weber got rid of the gun during the pursuit by the deputies.

    "It is their belief that at some point, either during the foot pursuit or immediately after, the suspect was able to hand the gun off or throw the gun, and subsequently someone picked that up," said McDonnell.

    The Sheriff emphasized this is all still under investigation, pledged to be as "transparent as we can be by law" with what the department learns, and said the department wants to hear from any witnesses.

    "Our hope is that somebody will come forward," McDonnell said.

    Weber's death was the subject Wednesday of a special meeting called by the Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission and held inside a church a few blocks away. It was intended to quell tensions, but the course of the meeting only served to underscore the depth of them. It was interrupted by vehement shouting, changing, and denunciation of the Sheriff's Department and collapsed before any serious dialogue could take place. 

    "Last night's sheriff's meeting was outrageous and a waste of time," said Najee Ali, a longtime community activist who is serving as spokesman for Weber's family.

    "The family, as well as many civil rights leaders, feel no trust in the Sheriff's Department to investigate their own," said Ali.

    "That's why today the family, along with civil rights leaders, are calling upon California's Attorney General Javier Becerra to investigate."

    The Attorney General's office does not routinely investigate uses-of-force by local law enforcement. However, when the federal Justice Department made changes to its review and reform program that would affect its oversight of the San Francisco Police Department, California's Attorney General stepped in to handle the oversight.

    "Now it's time to intervene in Los Angeles, too," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.

    The Attorney General's Office would not be able to determine whether "intervention" would be appropriate until it reviews the situation, according to a spokesperson.

    "We all want to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what happened and how it happened," said McDonnell, noting that the Sheriff's Inspector General, Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, and County Coroner also investigate every fatal use of force.

    "My ask of the public is that we remain calm, we work through this together," said McDonnell, expressing disappointment that the Wednesday night meeting had not gone better.

    "I hope we can work past that."

    The number of incidents of shots fired by Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputies has been declining over the past five years — the 22 last year less than half the 49 in 2012. But this past week, apart from Weber's death, there were also two others.

    Early Monday in Artesia, a 21-year-old narcotics suspect was wounded while he was charging toward a deputy, according to the department. Tuesday night in East LA  a man was shot to death after, authorities said, he jumped into a sheriff's vehicle and drove toward a deputy.

    Weber’s mother has started a gofundme page.

    Editor's Note Feb. 26, 2017: This story was updated to correct an error in the name of the man shot by deputies.