Body camera footage of the shooting of Charly “Africa” Keunang by the LAPD was obtained by the LA Times from court filings in the civil rights lawsuit brought by Mr. Keunang’s family and released to the public on Monday, January 8, 2017, three years after the Skid Row resident was killed.
The highly controversial shooting in March 2015 was captured on video by a bystander and posted online shortly after the incident. The shooting fueled growing public anger over police killings of black men, highlighted questions about LAPD policy and practice for handling mentally ill and homeless people, and focused attention on when and if body camera footage should be released to the public.
The body camera video shows the lead-up to the shooting, which was not captured on the bystander video, including a verbal exchange between Mr. Keunang and officers in which he repeatedly asks officers to “Let me express myself,” and they respond by yelling at him and telling him he will be Tased.
According to HSR attorney Joshua Piovia-Scott, the footage clearly reveals that police behavior towards Mr. Keunang in the moments prior to the shooting resulted in his death. “This was a cop-created killing. This did not need to happen,” attorney Piovia-Scott said. “And the reason it did happen is because of the conduct of these officers.”
Policing expert Samuel Walker said the officers could have de-escalated the situation, rather than provoking Mr. Keunang. Walker asked, “What is the urgency?” There are ways of resolving these situations more peacefully.”
The Keunang footage was released in connection with the family’s lawsuit against the LAPD and is the first high profile body cam footage shooting to be released by the LAPD since officers began to wear the equipment several years ago. Police Chief Charlie Beck has said that the video shows Mr. Keunang grabbing an officer’s gun, but Keunang’s family does not agree, and they assert that police set events in motion that caused Keunang’s death.
Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, asserts that the video provides context to the shooting. “There’s nothing on this tape that justifies keeping it secret” he said. “The public has a right to know what happens when a police officer, who’s paid with public money, kills somebody. It’s absurd that it took this long.”
HSR attorneys Joshua Piovia-Scott, Dan Stormer and Brian Olney represent Mr. Keunang’s family in a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD and the individual officers responsible for Mr. Keunang’s death and can be reached for further comment, 626-585-9600.
BACKGROUND MEDIA, 2015: