The Los Angeles Police Commission found Tuesday that an officer was justified last summer in shooting an unarmed man who had a piece of cloth wrapped around his hand.
The commissioners agreed with Chief Charlie Beck's assessment that the officer who shot and seriously injured Walter William DeLeon in Los Feliz on June 19, 2015, acted properly in opening fire because there was reason to believe he posed a threat.
A California Highway Patrol emergency dispatcher received a call about 6:35 p.m. from a witness who reported that DeLeon had instructed him to call 911 and say that a man was walking with a gun in his hand, according to Beck's report on the investigation of the shooting.
The report also included multiple statements by witnesses -- many of whom were in their cars and stopped in traffic during parts of the incident -- who said DeLeon looked as if he was holding a gun under a towel or T-shirt and appeared to be aiming a hidden gun.
Beck also said DeLeon exhibited the behavior of someone who was suffering from a mental illness or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The shooting by the officer -- identified by the LAPD as nine-year law enforcement veteran Cairo Palacios -- occurred at the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Tica Drive.
Officers said they were driving back to the Northeast Station when they heard a "loud moan or scream" by a male voice. As the sounds continued, they saw DeLeon, who appeared to be walking toward them and had "his right hand wrapped in a towel and his arms in a 90-degree angle, holding a gun in a shooting stance point it in their direction," according to the report.
The officers told DeLeon several times to drop his gun, before one of them fired three rounds, according to Beck's report. DeLeon fell onto his back.
The officers approached him with pistols drawn, but when they saw him bleeding from his head, they put away their guns and put on latex gloves, Beck's report said.
The officers removed the cloth from DeLeon's right hand and found that there was nothing underneath. A search of the area also turned up no gun. An ambulance was called, and in the meantime, a physician who was passing by offered his help, according to the report.
DeLeon filed a civil rights complaint in the case.