Council goes outside for shooting investigation

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Wave Wire Services

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The City Council has voted to ask the California Attorney General’s Office to investigate the fatal shooting of a 38-year-old man who was reportedly holding a box cutter when shot in April by a Los Angeles Police Department officer, who happens to be the daughter of a police union board member.

The action was the result of a motion filed in July by Councilman Curren Price, which stated that a conflict of interest could exist in a local investigation, as the Los Angeles Police Protective League represents nearly 10,000 sworn officers.

Some of the City Council members were hesitant about calling in the state’s attorney general, as Los Angeles already has an inspector general and a Police Commission that oversee whether shootings by officers were within department policy.

Councilman Gil Cedillo said he wouldn’t want to muddy the process that Los Angeles already has in place, but the city should do what it can to maintain transparency when it comes to fatal shootings.

“If we want to make sure we bring another level of confidence to the public, then that is what we should say,” he said. “If we want to say that we want to augment our repeal process, that there is a problem with our civilian review, then we shouldn’t say that.”

Strefan Fauble, the City Council’s liaison to the City Attorney’s Office, said the panel would not be setting a legal precedent by issuing the request.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said there were multiple factors to consider regarding the incident, especially as the LAPD has largely reformed over the last couple decades, but he also said the council shouldn’t shield officers who have committed lethal action without just cause.

“I don’t understand why we think protecting individual cases or a large number of cases from examination helps move the ball forward,” Harris-Dawson said. “It’s just hard to imagine that that’s the case. It’s not as if the California attorney general, or any attorney general in the entire United States, has a track record of illegally convicting officers or charging officers in officer-involved shootings.

“No one has that record, not one. … So I’m not afraid to have the attorney general of this state or any other state look at the actions of our police department. I think if they find issues and they raise them, it provides information for us to do better in the future.”

The vote was 8-4, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian and John Lee opposed.

“We don’t sacrifice our responsibility as legislators, as lawmakers because of the historical moment,” Krekorian said. “We have to vote on specific things that are debated based on the specific merits of that debate, and in this case, I’ve got to tell you, maybe this is the right thing to do, maybe it isn’t. But since we have nothing before us to suggest whether this helps or hurts our own investigation, I, at this point, cannot support this.”

The Police Protective League board of directors also opposed the council’s action in a statement to City News Service.

“There is a real danger when politicians attempt to influence independent investigations for their own personal political gain,” the statement reads. “It is in everyone’s best interests for there to be a full, fair, transparent and timely independent investigation conducted by department professionals to determine the facts and not further politicize public safety by a few council members seeking another headline and to further divide police officers from the community we serve.”

A report from the council’s Public Safety Committee stated the situation was “unique,” given the officer’s ties to the league’s board.

The shooting occurred on April 22, after officers went to 32nd and San Pedro streets on a report of a multi-vehicle crash. A man, later identified as Daniel Hernandez, was in the street with an “edged weapon,” and an officer shot him, police said.

On the 911 call about the incident, a woman told dispatchers that it was a “really bad accident,” and another woman said a man had struck five vehicles with his car and was armed with a knife.

Hernandez died at the scene and a box cutter was recovered. No officers were injured, but two people were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

 

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