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Criminal Justice

Mayor And City Council Members Express Concerns After LAPD Releases Footage Of Fatal Shootings

The arm of a police officer pointing a gun towards a kitchen with brown wooden cabinets and a fridge.
A screen shot from the body-worn camera footage of the fatal LAPD shooting of Takar Smith.
(Courtesy LAPD)
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LAPD Chief Michel Moore on Wednesday questioned the actions of officers leading up to the fatal shooting of Takar Smith on Jan. 2.

Smith's death is one of three fatalities — two police shootings and one in-custody death — already this year that Moore addressed at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Moore also released officer-worn body-camera footage from all three incidents.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, in a statement released following the news conference, said she had “grave concerns about the deeply disturbing tapes that were released.” Other public officials followed.

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Both police shootings involved people whose families say were struggling with mental health issues, raising again questions about police response.

The LAPD confirmed that a mental health team was not requested in the Smith case or the other two incidents.

Moore said of 31 LAPD shootings in 2022, 11 involved a person perceived to have a mental illness. The chief re-iterated Wednesday that specially trained LAPD Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU) teams were responding to about one-third of mental health calls and that more mental health clinicians and resources were needed.

As with all officer shootings, the three deaths are under an internal investigation by the LAPD.

Here's what we know.

Takar Smith

Takar Smith, 45, was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife before officers tased him and then opened fire with live rounds.

In audio of a 911 call released by the department, a caller can be heard telling dispatchers that Smith lives with schizophrenia and has not been taking his medication.

“He’s supposed to take medication because he has, like a mental illness,” the caller says.

Several officers arrive and after entering the apartment they attempt to talk Smith down. Smith’s speech is at times disorganized and unintelligible.

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After officers tase Smith multiple times, he appears to grab a kitchen knife at which point an officer fires live rounds.

Moore said several points of the Smith incident give him “pause.”

“I’m being very clear about my dissatisfaction with what I believe were points of information regarding [Smith’s] mental health... that... resources were not called upon,” Moore said. The chief questioned why one of the MEU teams were not called to the scene to attempt to de-escalate Smith.

Oscar Leon Sanchez

A day after officers fatally shot Smith, Oscar Leon Sanchez, 35, was shot and killed by LAPD officers.

Oscar Leon Sanchez  stands wearing a black puffy vest, a brown t-shirt with a skull on it and a necklace with crucifix attached. He wears a black baseball cap.
Oscar Leon Sanchez
(Courtesy Sanchez family)

Sanchez allegedly threatened a driver with a knife before officers located him at an apparently abandoned home.

The LAPD claims Sanchez “stepped toward them while holding a two-foot-long metal object with an approximate three-inch spike protruding from one end,” at which point officers fired live and non-lethal ammunition. Sanchez was struck and killed by live ammunition, according to the department.

In video released Wednesday, Sanchez’s actions aren’t clear because one of the officers is using a riot shield that blocks the view of Sanchez.

Sanchez’s family said he was struggling with his mental health when he was killed. The family's attorney said Sanchez has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Keenan Anderson

According to a police report, on Jan. 3, Keenan Anderson died after LAPD officers used “a TASER, bodyweight, firm grips, and joint locks” to arrest him after a traffic collision.

Moore claimed Anderson had been involved in a traffic collision and was attempting to flee. He said Anderson was “resisting officers’ actions to take him into custody.”

In a body-cam video from one of the officers, Anderson appears distraught and says at one point that someone is trying to kill him.

Anderson can be heard saying “They’re trying to George Floyd Me.”

He later went into cardiac arrest at Santa Monica hospital and died.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said on Instagram that Anderson was her cousin and an educator who worked with high school-aged children.

"Keenan deserves to be alive right now, his child deserves to be raised by his father. Keenan we will fight for you and for all of our loved ones impacted by state violence," Cullors wrote.

Concerns

In a statement released following the news conference, Mayor Bass said she had “grave concerns about the deeply disturbing tapes that were released.”

“Especially as a former health care professional, I am deeply troubled that mental health experts were not called in, even when there was a documented history of past mental health crisis,” Bass added.

L.A. Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez released a statement that said in part: “We can no longer look away from this crisis in our policing system — it’s long past time that we establish permanent, life-affirming, care-first responses to mental health crises that truly uplift the public’s safety and address the root causes of harm.”

Councilmember Hugo Soto Martinez put out a statement today calling for the officers responsible for the deaths to be immediately fired.

Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Grassroots told LAist outside of LAPD headquarters that the latest incidents underscored the need for reforms.

“Mental health challenges and crises are not crimes,” Abdullah said. “It’s very easy to get to the solution that we need police out of mental health calls, we need police out of traffic stops and we need to invest those dollars in mental health resources."

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.