Three police officers didn't follow Los Angeles Police Department protocol in the fatal shooting of a 51-year-old who led police on an hourlong pursuit, an internal review found.
Brian Newt Beaird, 51, was shot on live TV after crashing his silver Corvette into another car in downtown LA last December. Beaird was acting as if he may have had a gun, but he didn't represent a deadly threat, the Los Angeles Police Commission review, released last week, found.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck backed the report.
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"These officers did not get up that morning to come in and get involved in an officer-involved shooting," Beck said. "They are officers that did not perform to their training and my obligation is to make sure that we set standards."
The report said that a Los Angeles police officer with similar training and experience would not have reasonably identified an imminent threat of death of serious bodily injury based on the same facts and circumstances.
Beaird family attorney Dale Galipo applauded the report.
"It’s a first step in the right direction for someone at the top to say to his officers, 'That is unacceptable. That was excessive. That was unreasonable,'" Galipo said. But here you have an unjustified shooting caught on video. You have the chief saying that they were in the wrong, and if that doesn't support a criminal prosecution against police officers for a shooting, I guess the question is, what would?"
Prosecutors are reviewing the case.
Police officers are only justified in shooting a suspect when they have an objective and reasonable belief that the suspect represents an imminent threat — the crux of the recent grand jury investigation into Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
The LA Police Commission's review of Beaird's shooting — first reported by the LA Times — found the opposite of what the grand jury did: that LAPD officers could not believe they were in danger when they shot an unarmed civilian.
The three unidentified officers shot Beaird in a hail of 21 bullets, according to the review.
LAPD officers were on edge during the hourlong pursuit of Beaird after they had seen him repeatedly reach under the driver's seat, thinking he had a gun, according to officer's testimony to the commission.
One officer, a seven-year veteran, fired nine rounds after he saw Beaird reaching into his waistband, interpreting that motion as reaching for a weapon.
"In a split second he turns toward me and the officers at which point I just — I perceive him as a threat," said the officer, according to the report. "At that point he’s — he’s an armed suspect."
But the internal review found no evidence that Beaird reached for his waistband, and that despite various distractions, none of the officers had a good reason to shoot Beaird.
Beaird's family received a $5 million settlement with the LAPD in August.
It is unclear what kind of punishment the officers will receive, but officers are rarely prosecuted or fired for mistakes that lead to people's deaths, an NBC4 I-team investigation found.
"Are there going to be officers that make mistakes? Yes," police commission president Steve Soboroff said in an interview on officer-involved shootings with NBC4's I-Team last month.