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Criminal Justice

AG’s Office Recommends LAPD More Mental Health Crisis Training After Investigating Fatal Shooting

A screen shot from the officer body cam footage of the fatal shooting of Matthew Sova in 2021 shows officers pointing their weapons at Sova, who wears a red shirt and dark pants and is standing in front of a business in Hollywood.
A screen shot from the officer body cam footage of the fatal shooting of Matthew Sova.
LAPD)
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Attorney General Rob Bonta released the findings Thursday of his office’s first investigation into the law enforcement killing of an unarmed person as required by a 2020 law.

In 2021, Bonta’s office established police shooting investigation teams that independently probe fatal law enforcement shootings of unarmed people, as required by AB 1506.

The first case investigators looked into was that of Matthew James Sova. Last year, LAPD officers fatally shot the 48-year-old in Hollywood. The officers were responding to a call of a man who the 911 caller said was “acting crazy” and allegedly carrying what looked to the caller to be a pistol in his hand.

The “pistol” that Sova pointed at an officer turned out to be a small butane lighter with a grip roughly resembling a firearm.

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While the DOJ investigation concluded that officers “reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary,” Bonta pointed out recommendations his office is making to police during a press conference Thursday.

“LAPD should ensure personnel are informed and trained on policies, processes and procedures related to the engagement of LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit,” Bonta said.

Those specially trained Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU) teams -- made up of an armed officer and a mental health clinician -- were not called to the scene of the Sova shooting, even though the AG’s report said cops had 12 separate encounters with Sova related to his mental health in the space of four years.

“We agree with their findings regarding the officers actions and will examine the recommendations outlined in the report for any improvement in our policies, procedures and training,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.

Between Jan. 2021 and July 2022, the department's MEU teams only responded to about one-third of mental health calls.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.