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Video: Long Beach Police Fatally Shoot Unarmed Man Running Away [Graphic]
A cell phone video taken this weekend shows the deadly police shooting of an unarmed man running away from them in Long Beach.
The video taken from an apartment above shows the tail end of a police chase on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the coast of Long Beach. The man, a suspect who allegedly got into a fight with Target security officers in Compton earlier, is cornered on a dead end street by deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who told him to get out of his car. The video begins with the man sitting stationary for a few minutes until he exits the car with some sort of stick in his hand and slowly walks away from deputies.
Deputies release a dog on him, and the man starts running down the stairs to the beach. Deputies said they fired so-called less-than-lethal "stunbag" on him, but he continues running. At the bottom of the stairs, Long Beach Police release a hail of bullets on the man, who collapses. He later died in a hospital from his injuries. His name hasn't been released.
The Long Beach Police Department said they were located just to the east of the foot of the staircase when they fired at him. They claim in a statement both that the man reached for his waist band and that their view of the man was obstructed:
"Long Beach officers, who were located on the beach, east of the foot of the stairs with an obstructed view due to palm trees and shrubbery, heard gunshots from above and saw the suspect running toward the populated beach area. The suspect failed to surrender and after officers observed him reaching or his waist band, an officer involved shooting occurred."
The video is from faraway, but it really doesn't look like he's reaching for his waist band or trying to do much besides get away from the deputies and their dog. The man who has yet to be identified gets out of his car around the 1:50-minute mark:
Even a former LAPD detective said that cops shouldn't have killed the man. Tim Williams told NBC Los Angeles, "I do not see (the suspect) reach his waist band at all. From my observations from looking at this video tape, (the shooting) is not justified, I think it’s objectively unreasonable and it’s, my opinion, is excessive force."
The fact that the Long Beach release mentions the sound of deputies' gunfire is worth noting. This isn't the first time police say they have been rattled by friendly fire before deploying lethal force on a suspect. LAPD killed an unarmed driver who put his hands up at the end of a police chase in December, and some reports have suggested that police at the scene were set off by the sound of non-lethal bean bags other officers fired at the victim. During the hunt for Christopher Dorner, Torrance Police fired at a surfer and rammed into his car, because they heard LAPD gunfire aimed at some innocent newspaper delivery women erupt nearby. The surfer wasn't hit by gunfire but he did suffer a concussion and a spinal injury from the crash. The District Attorney ruled that police officers made a "reasonable mistake."
Sunday's chase started around 2:45 p.m. at a Target in Compton. Compton deputies say they were called in to the scene where they said they saw the man pull scissors on security officers at the store. The suspect fled to his car and led police on a chase through Compton that ended in Long Beach to where the video begins.
The current chief of the Long Beach Police Department Jim McDonnell is running for Leroy Baca's old spot in the Sheriff's Department, and the department under his direction has come under fire for a high number of police shootings under pretty questionable circumstances:
Those shootings included the death of Tyler Woods, an unarmed man who was shot and killed by police on a rooftop. Woods' family has said that he was on his knees and surrendering when police shot him. In another incident, John Del Real was shot and killed by a plain-clothes officer after they got into a scuffle. Del Real didn't have a gun, but police said he had a metal bat tucked in his waistband and was shot when it looked like he was reaching for it.
Crime in the city is at its lowest point in over four decades, while police shootings have spiked. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but there were 15 shootings in 2012 compared to 24 in LAPD's jurisdiction for the first 11 months of 2012. Los Angeles is about six times larger than Long Beach.
UPDATE 1:30 p.m.: The fatally-shot man was identified as 36-year-old Jason Conoscenti, coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter told City News Service.