A homeless man named Africa who recently finished a 10-year stint in a mental health institution was shot and killed by an LAPD officer on Skid Row, late Sunday night. According to witnesses, Africa was initially approached by police after a robbery was reported in the area.
In a cellphone video captured by a witness, Africa scuffles with four officers before they push him to the ground. The scuffle continues, at which point one of the officers swings at Africa several times. Moments later, two officers and a sergeant deploy five gunshots killing Africa on the spot.
An LAPD press release later explained that one of the officers at the scene unsuccessfuly attempted to taser Africa. At one point, officers yell at Africa to drop his gun, but the suspect was unarmed. Smith alleges that Africa was shot because he tried to reach for one of the officer’s guns.
Eyetwitness Dennis Horne told reporters that the encounter between Africa and the cops escalated when Africa refused to exit his tent. According to another witness, the officers wanted Africa to break down his tent, since homeless people are required to remove them from the sidewalk between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. After failing to comply, the officers used a stun gun and pulled him out, which is when the scuffle started.
Roughly 3,500 homeless people reside on Skid Row, a downtown L.A. neighborhood that spans 50 city blocks. Today it is considered a hotbed of mental illness. In May, officers tased another mentally ill homeless man in the neighborhood named Carlos Ocana on a rooftop. Ocana fell to his death.
Despite a recent push to ease arrests for petty offenses in the area, officers are still working on strategies to accommodate the massive population.
Between 2001 and 2013, the city entered into a consent decree to implement comprehensive reforms, after the Department of Justice concluded that the LAPD was rife with corruption and disproportionately targeted communities of color. More than a decade after it was first agreed upon, the decree was lifted by U.S. District Judge Gary Feess, who cited substantial progress made under federal scrutiny. However, in the past year, the LAPD has come under fire for racist comments and use of force, including the shooting of unarmed men Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego. In December, officers were filmed at a party singing an insensitive song about Michael Brown, to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”