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Family Of Man Killed In Skid Row Shooting By Police Suing LAPD And L.A.
The family of an unarmed and mentally-ill homeless man who was fatally shot by LAPD officers on Skid Row filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department and the city of Los Angeles today.
They're saying that the shooting death of 43-year-old Charly Keunang by the hands of police on March 1 was "a classic case of abuse of power and deadly force," according to the Associated Press.
The family said in a statement: "Six trained and fully-armed police officers initiated a conflict and shot Keunang six times in the unnecessary struggle that ensued."
The shooting was recorded a bystander who posted the video to Facebook. It quickly went viral. The video shows several LAPD officers attempting to wrestle Keunang to the ground. It's not clear in the clip what happens towards the end of the scuffle, but there's the sound of a Taser being used. Shots are fired, and then Keunang's body goes limp.
Though LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck argued that Keunang grabbed an officer's gun, leading officers to shoot him, Keunang's family says that another video taken from an officer's bodycam shows something different. Police have refused to release the bodycam footage to the public, arguing that the investigation is still underway. However, the family says in the lawsuit that GQ writer Jeff Sharlet was allowed to see the video, and in an article published last month, he wrote about a rookie officer named Joshua Volasgis, whom the LAPD never identified:
In the video the public sees, a glint of sun on a squad car, reﬂected light dissecting the scene, and Volasgis, shouting, "He has my gun! He has my gun!" Charly does not have the gun, of this there is no question. He may have reached for it. His arm may have convulsed. He may have never come near.
The family also says eyewitness accounts contradict the LAPD's story. "At no time did Mr. Keunang possess any type of weapon, much less fire or remove any firearm from the officers," the lawsuit says.
Police say the whole ordeal started because they thought Keunang was a robbery suspect, though the lawsuit argues something different: that another homeless man made a 9-1-1 call to report an argument with Keunang, according to the AP.
The family's lawsuit is seeking for damages for wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations. Aside from the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles, it also names Beck and officers Chang Syed, Francisco Martinez, Daniel Torres and Volasgis in the lawsuit. Though the family is asking for an unspecified amount, the Times reports that an earlier claim was asking for $20 million.
The LAPD Force Investigation Division, LAPD Inspector General and LA District Attorney are investigating the shooting.