LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11 / CNS) - The Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old black woman in the aftermath of a pharmacy robbery in August 2015 in the Crenshaw district acted within department policy, the city Police Commission ruled Tuesday.
The decision immediately sparked shouts of protest from the audience, which was packed with activists and some Black Lives Matter members calling for the officer to be disciplined or fired. Some in the crowd shouted "Shame on you" as board members adjourned their meeting and walked from the room.
Outside the Police Administration Building, hundreds of angered activists chanted "Fire Charlie Beck! Remove Matt Johnson!" referring to the Los Angeles Police Department chief and the president of the Police Commission.
The commission, after meeting in closed session for more than an hour, announced that it found fault with some of the tactics used by officers in the Aug. 12, 2015, shooting of Redel Jones, but found that Officer Brett Ramirez's shooting of the woman did not violate LAPD policy.
Ramirez has been with the department for about four years. Jones was shot in the 4100 block of Marlton Avenue after police responded to a call of a pharmacy robbery in the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive. About $80 was stolen.
Police said officers saw a woman matching the description of the suspect in an alley west of Marlton Avenue, and the shooting occurred when officers tried to detain her. Police said the woman was armed with a knife, and that a knife was recovered at the scene.
According to Beck's report to the Police Commission, officers were chasing Jones in the alley when they saw her pull out a large knife. The officers ordered Jones to drop the knife, but she continued to run, according
to the report.
An officer deployed a Taser during the chase, but it apparently did not make contact with Jones, according to the report. During the chase, Jones suddenly stopped and turned toward the officers, the report said. According to the report, Jones "raised her knife to head level and pointed the blade in (an officer's) direction. Jones then took approximately three to four lunging steps and charged in his direction."
Beck concluded in the report that "based on the totality of the circumstances," a trained officer "would reasonably believe that Jones' actions while armed with a knife presented an imminent threat of death or
serious bodily injury and therefore, the use of lethal force would be objectively reasonable."
According to an internal report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, money and a robbery demand note were found in Jones' clothing. A woman named Courtyana Franklin told the paper, however, that she
witnessed the shooting in the side-view mirror of her car, and she insisted Jones was running away from officers when she was shot, not advancing on them.
Jones' husband, Marcus Vaughn, was among those attending today's commission meeting, telling the panel in an emotional statement, "You all stole her from me." After the commission's decision was announced, Vaughn was
seen wiping away tears amid a crowd of supporters outside the headquarters building. Some protesters left the Police Administration Building and began gathering on the east steps of City Hall in an impromptu sit-in.
The sit-in continued into late afternoon, but was generally peaceful and no arrests were reported. Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, called the shooting "tragic," but said he supports the commission's decision as it relates to the use of force.
From Victoria Spilabotte:
But activists said they’ve been seeking justice for Jones since her death and they feel the system has failed them again. “I felt really angry,” protestor, Jasmine Abdullah, said. “I felt frustrated, I feel hurt like enough is enough.”
While the commission ruled the overall shooting justified, it did fault the officers for poor tactics leading up to the incident.
Protestors did not have a time frame as to when they planned to leave city hall.
"We appreciate that despite the emotionally charged environment, the Police Commission objectively weighed the facts before them and found that the officer used appropriate force given the circumstances," Lally said.
The commission heard a series of emotional comments at the onset of its meeting. One woman had to be escorted out of the room when she began speaking out when Beck tried to address the panel.
With order restored, Beck said police shootings this year are down 30 percent compared to last year, saying it's an indication that officers are "doing a better job of regulating themselves." During the public-comment period, one critic disparaged a much-publicized meeting last week between Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game -- billed as an effort to open a dialogue between police and the black community.
Tensions between police and the black community have been running high following two fatal shootings by police in the past week -- of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The tensions escalated into last week's sniper shootings during a protest in Dallas, killing five police officers.
Police Commission President Matt Johnson called for a "meaningful discussions" with the community. "Whether we're talking about Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas or right here in Los Angeles, the actions of a few have caused so much pain and anger in communities across America," Johnson said. "It is my hope that meaningful dialogue can occur with all of our communities so we can continue to improve the relationship between our police officers and our residents."
Garcetti and Beck, along with mayors and police chiefs from across the country, are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the issue of violence involving police.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday the meeting was still being organized, but in addition to law enforcement officials it will include "activists, civil rights leaders, local political leaders from the across the country." He said the meeting will be an effort "to try to further the dialogue and the identification of specific solutions to repairing the bonds of trust that have frayed in so many communities between law enforcement officials and the citizens that they're sworn to serve and protect."
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