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Criminal Justice

Huntington Park Police Shot, Killed Man Who Had Both Legs Amputated: What We Know So Far

A Black man with a dark blue suit and black-rimmed glasses speaks in front of a group of news station microphones. Behind him there's a group of people holding signs.
Protesters gathered Thursday in front of Huntington Park City Hall to demand justice for Anthony Lowe, who was shot and killed by police last week.
(Brian Feinzimer
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The police shooting last week of a man in Huntington Park who'd had both legs amputated — and who appeared to be out of his wheelchair when he was fatally wounded — is raising serious questions about how the incident was handled.

Anthony Lowe, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene. The family's attorneys announced at a press conference Thursday that they've filed a claim against the city of Huntington Park, the first step toward bringing a federal civil lawsuit.

The attorneys said the family is also calling for the identification and termination of the officers involved, murder charges to be brought against the officers, and the immediate publication of the full surveillance video from AltaMed — a medical center near where Lowe was shot. Video from bystanders that was posted to social media captured part of the event.

“This is hard for me, this hard for me,” said Ebonique Simon, in front of dozens of reporters gathered near Huntington Park's city hall. “He always uplifted those around him.”

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Simon is the mother of 15-year-old Anthony Lowe Jr., Lowe's son. He also attended the press conference.

People saw something was very wrong and they stopped to tape it. Thank goodness that we’re in the era of videos.
— Austin Dove, attorney

“People saw something was very wrong and they stopped to tape it,” said attorney Austin Dove. “Thank goodness that we’re in the era of videos.”

Lowe’s family — who first called for the officers to be prosecuted at a news conference Monday — now plans to stage a march to the Huntington Park police station on Sunday, starting at the 1900 block of Slauson Avenue, near where he died.

About the shooting

On the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 26, Huntington Park police responded to a report of a stabbing on the 2400 block of Slauson Avenue. They allege Lowe had stabbed another man and, when officers found Lowe several blocks away, attempted to throw a knife in their direction twice.

Why the Sheriff's Dept. investigates killings for small cities
  • The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau investigates homicides in almost every smaller city in the county because those cities do not have the resources to do so. This includes fatal and non-fatal police officer shootings.

  • The District Attorney decides whether to charge an officer with a crime, unless the officer shot an unarmed person. Under state law, the California Attorney General makes the decision when an unarmed person is involved.

Officers in Huntington Park do not use body-worn cameras, but a bystander video captured part of the encounter and shows Lowe out of his wheelchair and scrambling down a sidewalk with officers in pursuit.

Lowe was treated by L.A. County Fire Department paramedics at the scene but did not survive.

Law enforcement's account

Here's the law enforcement account, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department:

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Police responded to the reported stabbing and were given a description of a man in a wheelchair. When police tried to detain Lowe, he pulled out a 12-inch butcher knife and attempted to throw it at the officers. He was tased at least twice, but the tasing was "ineffective." Lowe tried throwing the butcher's knife at the officers again, which is when police shot Lowe.

DA Says Independent Review Will Follow Sheriff's Investigation

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said Tuesday his office will conduct an independent review after the L.A. County Sheriff's Department completes its investigation into what happened.

"This has been an incredibly tragic start to 2023. Los Angeles County deserves to know how and why these incidents have occurred," he said in a written statement.

The officers are currently on paid administrative leave, according to a statement from the Huntington Park Police Department.

What Else You Should Know

  • Lowe was shot in his upper body.
  • He was pronounced dead at the scene.
  • A butcher's knife was recovered at the location.

Why It Matters

A wide street, empty except for one gray car, in front of a tan building with brick portions on its corner. The building has a sign reading "AltaMed." There is a sunny sky above, but largely covered by fluffy white clouds.
The location where Anthony Lowe was shot is next to medical center AltaMed, which has video cameras running down the side of the building. The shooting took place at the corner of Slauson Avenue and Alameda Street.
(Julia Barajas

There is no law enforcement video of the incident because the small Huntington Park Police Department does not use body-worn cameras. However, bystander video of the shooting has already appeared on social media. In the video, Lowe is seen leaving behind his wheelchair and moving away from police.

In the initial account released by the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept., which is investigating the shooting, there is no mention as to whether Lowe was in his wheelchair at the time he was shot and killed.

Content warning: While this video does not show the actual shooting, viewers may find it disturbing.

The Huntington Park Police Department had no comment about why their officers do not have body cameras.

About the alleged attack by Lowe

Huntington Park Police said the man allegedly stabbed by Lowe had a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. His wounds were life-threatening and he remains in critical condition, according to police.

Authorities said the wounded man told police that Lowe left his wheelchair, approached him without provocation and stabbed him in the side of his chest with a butcher knife. On Thursday, attorneys for Lowe's family said they had no additional information about his condition.

Questions raised about police use of force

Cliff Smith, with the grassroots organization Coalition for Community Control Over The Police, said police changed what they'd said about the incident once they became aware video was available.

"There can be no justification for the Huntington Park police using lethal force and killing Mr. Lowe," he said. "Mr. Lowe is a double amputee. Both his legs have been amputated at the knee. He's in no position to flee. The video shows that there's no imminent threat."

Smith also noted that officers had not exhausted their options to subdue Lowe or to call crisis negotiators or mental health professionals. The group is calling for criminal prosecutions of the officers involved.

What community members are saying

Alejandro Villalpando, an assistant professor in Latin American and Pan African Studies at Cal State L.A., grew up visiting Huntington Park and still has family in the area. He was outraged after seeing the video clip.

“I don't think that people should be executed in the middle of the street,” he said. “I don't think that's a symbol of a civilized society.”

Villalpando will be at the march this weekend, joining Lowe’s family to call for the officers to be terminated and face charges.

Though Lowe was carrying a knife, he added, “the police aren't hired to be judge, jury and executioner of anyone.”

Jas Liberto, a Walnut Park resident who lives about two miles from where the shooting took place, said she’s tired of seeing people die in interactions with the police. She wants to see clinicians who work with law enforcement engage with people in crisis.

Mental health care professionals don't carry guns on them. They carry skills, tactics, ways to de-escalate a situation.
— Jas Liberto of Walnut Park

“Mental health care professionals don't carry guns on them,” she said, “they carry skills, tactics, ways to de-escalate a situation.”

Liberto said she went to the news conference earlier this week out of “a sense of responsibility.” She works in behavior intervention support for children. She said providing solace for people in distress is an important part of that work.

“I don't know what [Lowe] was dealing with,” she added. “But what I can tell you is that [his death] could have been prevented.”

Shopkeepers along the block of Slauson Avenue, where the police began their pursuit, told LAist they did not see Lowe pass by. They did, however, see a flurry of police vehicles heading west toward Alameda Street and wondered what was going on.

More context on body cameras

California lags behind other states in body camera policy. Several states require all police departments to have them. In California, a police department has to publish body camera footage — if available — within 45 days if they shoot someone. In Connecticut, it’s within 48 hours.

Law enforcement is also required to release surveillance footage obtained from nearby businesses or other sources. There are surveillance cameras located alongside the nearby AltaMed medical center. In California, the release of video can be delayed indefinitely if law enforcement officials believe releasing the video would "substantially interfere with the investigation."

"It really does come down to cost," said Stephanie Lessing, a Boston-based political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Northeastern University. Lessing has studied police and body cameras for six years. Small departments don’t want to make the investment, she said, despite federal and state grant money often being available.

"Sometimes they don't really want to say it's because of money, especially if it's known that grant money is coming in. And it's like, 'Well, why aren't you using it for this? Why are you using it instead on more equipment?'" Lessing said.

It's actually the cost of storing video that’s many small departments’ biggest concern, Lessing said. She compares it to buying a printer.

"You buy your printer, and that's your piece of technology, and it's relatively cheap. But what really gets you is the ink cost," Lessing said.

Do body-worn cameras make a difference?

It's also unclear whether body cameras actually do what they are intended to do — either for officers or for the public. Studies have tried to measure their success in reducing department liability, reducing use-of-force and fatal police interactions, or minimizing public complaints. But many are either inconclusive or focus on such a small area that it’s not easy to draw wide conclusions from them.

“We don’t have a good way of saying, 'OK, this is what happens if you implement it in a large city. And this is what happens in a small city,'”  Lessing said. “There just isn’t a lot of good metrics. And that’s why we’re seeing conflicting information about, 'Yeah, it works here. It doesn’t work there.'”

The big issue, Lessing said, is that many municipalities don’t define their goal before they start implementing body cameras.

“It really depends on what is the goal," she said, "because one simple piece of technology can’t meet 15 different goals.”

The shooting took place one day before the release of footage by Memphis police in the high-profile Tyre Nichols arrest and beating.

How we're reporting on this

Reporter Julia Barajas went to the scene of the police shooting, fielded calls with law enforcement and others, and sought community reaction. She's also at a news conference on Feb. 2. Reporter Emily Elena Dugdale provided more context around the use by police of body cameras. Associate Editor Mike Roe provided additional background research and pulled together reporting on this story. Other newsroom editors provided additional background information.

What Questions We're Asking

  • What does the community make of the fact that Huntington Park police officers don't wear body cams?

Your Questions Or Ideas

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Updated February 2, 2023 at 12:14 PM PST
This story was updated with details from a press conference Thursday.
Updated February 2, 2023 at 9:41 AM PST
This story was updated with new information from the family's attorney and details from a Huntington Park Police Department statement. We also updated the description of how we're reporting on this story with the latest details.
Updated February 1, 2023 at 5:28 PM PST
This story was updated with comments from Alejandro Villalpando and details on a march planned for Sunday.
Updated February 1, 2023 at 10:04 AM PST
This story was updated with new information from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
Updated January 31, 2023 at 6:16 PM PST
This story was updated with details from reporting in Huntington Park on Tuesday.
Updated January 31, 2023 at 1:15 PM PST
This story was updated with the family's demands for the officers to be prosecuted and comments from Jas Liberto.
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