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Homeless Man Falls To His Death From Skid Row Rooftop After Police Taser Him

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Skid row (Photo by Shabdro Photo via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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A homeless man died after falling from a rooftop after he was Tasered by police officers. His death in May hadn't received much attention, but downtown residents and supporters showed up to a community meeting yesterday demanding officers change the way they treat the mentally ill on Skid Row. This comes on the heels of an LAPD officer describing Skid Row as being in a "mental health state of emergency" and an "outdoor asylum without walls."

Carlos Ocana, 54, a transient whose friends said he had mental health problems, climbed up a billboard atop the roof of a one-story at 5th and San Pedro streets on May 24, the L.A. Times reports. When LAPD officers and a SWAT team were unable to get him to come down after he had gone down and then back up a ladder, officers shot him with a Taser. According to the officers, they tried to grab him, but he fell to his death and didn't make it onto the airbag they set up for him.

During a meeting at James M. Wood Community Center on Wednesday, community members gathered to talk to the LAPD about the pending investigation on his death. One man, who went by his first name Roberto, told the Times that the police didn't allow Ocana's friends to talk him down from the billboard, even though they knew he had mental health issues. He also said that Ocana had tried to surrender by waving his t-shirt, and was terrified by the SWAT team's intimidating presence; they were carrying large guns.

"This [is] an outdoor asylum, and people need to be treated with compassion," Pastor Cue Jn'marie, a skid row street preacher, told police. "What are we going to do so someone doesn't get shot on the streets of Skid Row because they're mentally ill?"