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Community Questions if LAPD Officer Used Excessive Force

The shooting of a teenager in Glassell Park prompts an emergency community meeting headed by top officials.

Two nights ago on Dec. 16, in Glassell Park, shots from an LAPD officer wounded a young boy. At present, little information has been released. The LAPD will make more details publicly available in the next few days, Commander John Sherman said in a special City Human Relations Commission town hall meeting held at the Glassell Senior Citizen Center at 6:30 p.m. last night.

Because the investigation is ongoing and the incident involves a minor, Commander Sherman said he was limited by LAPD protocal about what he could share with the community. He did provide these details: On the night of Dec. 16, at about 8 p.m., two LAPD officers were driving down Verdugo Road, near Avenue 31, when they saw three boys with what appeared to be guns running in the street.

The officers stopped to investigate, at which point two of the boys ran in one direction while the third fled in the other. The officers commanded the individuals to stop, and the first two complied. The third individual, however, "produced a replica handgun and was shot." Detectives later discovered all three of the boys were shooting pistols in and around Verdugo Road.

Sherman explained that the officers later discovered the guns involved were air pistols, which typically fire soft plastic pellets that do not travel at velocities fast enough to cause injury or damage property.

The wounded individual was a 13-year-old Hispanic male, who was 5 feet 7 and weighed 200 pounds. Emergency personnel were rushed to the scene, and the boy is currently receiving medical treatment in a local hospital.

The extent of his injuries has not been disclosed, nor has the name of the boy or the officer who fired. Sherman went on to say that no charges will be brought against any of the boys and that this incident was not in any way gang-related. The Police Commission has already begun an investigation into the "appropriateness of the officer's action," as stated by Inspector General Nicole Bershon, Sherman said.

Sherman said the officer is "very, very disturbed because he did not know [the boy's weapon] was a replica handgun" and that this was "clearly an extreme tragedy for everyone involved."

Present at the meeting was the acting general of the Mexican Consulate, Juan Carlos Mendoza, whose presence suggests that the boy's family is from that country. Mendoza, looking extremely stern, reminded the people that "this is a country of laws" and reiterated the message all officials had urged throughout the evening: to "stay calm."

Mendoza also emphasized the importance of not exacting any sort of revenge. The consulate will be providing the family all manner of support at this time, from legal to economic support, and are looking for the Police Commission's inspection to reveal "exactly what happened and then take action accordingly."

After officials spoke, Human Relations Policy Analyst Francisco Ortega opened the floor to questions. Most of the questions, however, probed issues that could not be discussed at the time, as they would compromise the investigation.

During the two-hour forum, tensions ran high. Indeed, the evening was wrought with emotion, as mothers in the audience delivered such rapid-fire Spanish that the translator couldn't always keep up. Citizens did everything from badger the police and cite officer brutality to turn on the parenting of one another. Mostly, the incensed crowds verbally attacked the police.

But one audience member placed the larger blame on a different entity—neighborhood parents. In the evening's final comment, an elderly woman passionately rebuked the crowd. "Get with your kids," she said. "Stick with your kids. Educate your kids. You know better. I know better. My daddy knew better and my mama knew better when I wasn't doing the right thing. If your kids are out late, they're gonna get hurt. I live in this neighborhood, and I hear it all night long with the gunfire, with the parties, with the drunken brawls, with the burglaries. I work with the police and I am not going to take this sitting down. It is all of us watching our kids. It's not the police's responsiblity to raise our kids. It's your responsbility."

At this, the room burst into applause.

Further information will be released as early as today as the investigation continues.

Marcos El Malo December 29, 2010 at 08:33 AM
The very fact that the kid wasn't killed in a hail of bullets New York style tells me that the police didn't act with excessive force. The officer acted properly to protect himself and didn't go any further. I hope the kid makes a speedy recovery, but don't blame the police.

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