LAPD chief hastens video release to stem tensions

AP Photo
AP Photo/Nick Ut

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has become the latest to hasten the release of video of a deadly confrontation between police and a black man in order to break public tension.

The video Beck released Tuesday shows that 18-year-old Carnell Snell was armed just before he was shot dead but the footage failed to capture the scene where officers say he twice turned toward them holding the loaded semi-automatic handgun.

The LAPD typically releases video of police shootings only when ordered to do so by courts. Beck told reporters the Snell video was released in the interest of public safety and to correct misinformation.

“This is not done in any way to denigrate Mr. Snell,” he said.

In doing so, Beck echoed the actions last week of authorities in El Cajon, California, who released video of the shooting of Alfred Olango with a similar intention of quelling public unrest. Olango was fatally shot after he swiftly drew an electronic cigarette device from his front pocket and pointed at the officer in a “shooting stance,” police said.

Police in Charlotte, North Carolina also recently released snippets of recordings of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott that have led to violent protests.

When asked whether he thought the video would ease anger among protesters, the Los Angles chief answered that “there are folks that will not believe any narrative” presented by police.

“I think that this video is not for them, the folks that are going to find holes in whatever I present to them,” he said. “Unless they were physically present they are not going to believe the police’s point of view on this.”

The events began when officers tried to pull over a car with temporary paper license plates that didn’t match the year of the vehicle. Snell, seated in the car’s back seat, looked at officers, ducked down and then jumped out of the car and ran, Beck said.

Police released footage found on a surveillance camera that shows Snell crouching behind an SUV parked at a strip mall and pulling a handgun from the waistband of his sweatpants.

Snell then tucks the gun back into his waistband and runs around the corner of a strip mall as officers chase him. All then disappear from view because they were no longer within the range of the surveillance camera.

Beck said the video showed Snell had an opportunity to get rid of the gun but decided to keep it when he ran around a corner of the strip mall, disappearing from the footage that showed two officers running after him.

After Snell ran around the mall’s corner and out of range of the camera, he sprinted between two houses and turned toward officers while holding the gun, Beck said.

Officers fired three shots that missed Snell, who then climbed a fence and turned again toward the officers while holding the gun, Beck said. Police fired three more times, hitting Snell in the torso and knee. The officers were not wearing body cameras.

The surveillance footage was posted to YouTube just as Black Lives Matter organizers gathered Tuesday morning to protest Snell’s killing at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Demonstrators at the civilian oversight board’s meeting continuously disrupted Beck and commission members with expletives and insults and ignored repeated requests to maintain order. One woman who said her son had been killed by police threatened to kill officers herself.

No arrests were made but the meeting was closed to the public after protesters refused to stop chanting.

Protester Melina Abdullah accused police of selectively releasing a portion of video of Snell’s shooting to “posthumously assassinate” his character.

“I don’t care if he had a gun,” she shouted. “His life matters.”

Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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