LAPD Releases Video in Fatal Police Shooting Investigation

Eighteen-year-old Carnell Snell Jr. was shot and killed by police after a short pursuit

The Los Angeles Police Department released security camera video Tuesday that Chief Charlie Beck said shows a man was armed with a handgun before officers killed him in a shooting that led to weekend protests in South Los Angeles.

Beck said at a news conference Monday that the video, obtained from a business, "clearly shows" Carnell Snell Jr., 18, with a semiautomatic handgun as he was pursued by officers. Snell turned twice toward officers during the foot chase, which occurred at the end of a brief vehicle pursuit, Beck added.

Police previously confirmed a handgun was found at the scene, but did not say whether Snell was holding the weapon.

The video was released ahead of Tuesday morning's police commission meeting, at which Beck addressed the shooting. Protesters in the audience turned their back to Beck and raised their fists during his presentation, which was interrupted several times before commissioners took an unscheduled break.

Tensions later escalated during the public comment period when a woman who identified herself as the mother of Richard Risher, a man police fatally shot earlier this year in Watts, said she felt revenge on officers was the only option, saying the department has so far failed to give her an adequate response about her son's death.

"From today, (expletive) this protesting (expletive), I'm going to start taking your lives," she said.

Eddie H. of the Los Angeles Community Action Network attempted to put her words into context, telling the commission that "when we cry out saying no more blood in the streets of our young men and women, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, we're serious about this.

"It's getting to the point where we really do feel that the only way this is going to change is by revolution."

He added that he was not "advocating for violence by any stretch of the imagination," but it would not surprise him if things do turn violent.

"To all who are in this room today, we all should be held accountable," he said. "For you are complicit if you allow your voice to continue to be impotent while we are slaughtered in the streets ... if you can't see the hurt and pain that we experience on a daily basis -- so we're saying right now, stand up and be counted."

Beck later told reporters that he understands the anguish, "but Los Angeles police officers have a very dangerous job."

"They are courageous people," he said. "They want to make a difference in society and they want to do the right thing. Occasionally they fall short, but the vast majority of the time they do not.

"To have somebody target an individual just because of their profession is certainly no better than targeting somebody because of their race."

The Snell shooting occurred Saturday afternoon after Los Angeles police said they tried to pull over a car with paper license plates at about 1 p.m. Officers believed the vehicle was stolen, Beck said.

After the short chase the driver and a passenger, later identified as Snell, in the back seat got out and fled. 

"At one point during their foot pursuit, which was 200 to 300 yards in total, they observed him remove a handgun from his waistband and hold it in his left hand," Beck said. "He ran into a driveway in the 1700 block of 107th Street and while holding the handgun in his left hand, he turned in the direction of the pursuing officers, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred."

The security camera video released Tuesday shows a man in a blue sweatshirt running across a parking lot. The man is holding what police identified as a semiautomatic handgun in his left hand as he walks behind a sport utility vehicle in front of a row of stores, then runs in the opposite direction and turns a corner beyond the camera's view.

An officer can be seen running after Snell as he runs around the corner of the strip mall.

The video does not show the shooting. Body-worn cameras have not been deployed in the division where the shooting occurred, Beck said.

Snell was struck by two rounds. He suffered a gunshot wound to the upper body and knee, police said.

A fully loaded handgun was found at the scene, about five feet from Snell's body, Beck said. The weapon had not been fired.

In a statement, the LAPD said investigators will gather evidence related to the shooting to determine whether deadly force was necessary and the district attorney's office will review it to see if any criminal charges are warranted.

The police commission also released a statement Tuesday about the shooting and the release of the video. Tuesday's meeting was the first since the Snell shooting.

"No matter what the circumstances, these events are tragic for the loved ones of the deceased, their friends and community members," Commission President Matthew Johnson said. "It is also important to remember that, while certainly not the same as losing a loved one, these incidents are also tragic for the individual officers involved. It is no one's desire to take another man's life.

"These events, unfortunately, come on the heels of other officer involved shootings around that country that have left many of us questioning why they had to happen. Understandably, the community is asking for answers and asking to see the video. Our current policy provides that we do not release video to the public. However, given the heightened tensions in our nation at this time, the Mayor, the Chief and I have agreed that it is in the public's best interest to allow the release of the footage taken by a security camera from a private business."

The shooting set off weekend protests and a gathering by a small group of protesters Monday morning at LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Residents and family members also left candles, flowers and other items at a memorial in honor of Snell near his home. 

A crowd of protesters Sunday dwindled as the night wore on and police in protective gear eventually swarmed to move about a dozen people away from the area near Snell's home. Demonstrators were joined by at least three drivers doing donuts on the street and several others spray painting graffiti as officers stood by.

Four people were arrested, police said.

Snell was the third black man in five days to die in confrontations with police in Southern California. Last Tuesday, Alfred Olango was fatally shot by an officer in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, triggering three days of angry and sometimes violent protests. Olango was shot when he took a "shooting stance" and pointed at an officer with what turned out to be a 4-inch vape pen — an electronic cigarette device.

On Friday, Reginald Thomas died after being shot with a stun gun by police in Pasadena. He was armed with a knife and his wife described him as mentally ill. His brother told a 911 dispatcher that Thomas was high and had a history of violence.

Meanwhile officials were investigating a second weekend shooting involving officers. A man armed with what turned out to be a replica handgun was shot and killed as police responded to reports of a man with a gun Sunday afternoon, according to Officer Liliana Preciado. She said the shooting in South Los Angeles happened when officers approached two Latino men, one of whom matched the description in the initial call of an armed subject.

The man died at a hospital.

Replica guns are usually equipped with bright orange tips, but the tip of the replica was painted black, Beck said Monday. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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