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MassCops Angel
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The seven officers involved in the homeless man's slaying together fired more than 40 shots, a source says. The positioning of the officers is also under scrutiny.


By Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
The Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The investigation into Sunday's shooting of a homeless man by Inglewood police is focusing in part on the tactics of the seven officers involved, who collectively fired more than 40 times at the man, a source close to the investigation said Tuesday.
The death of Eddie Felix Franco, 56, was the fourth fatal officer-involved shooting in Inglewood in four months. City officials have repeatedly declined to answer questions about what prompted the shooting, which occurred about five minutes after officers first confronted Franco. Officials have said he had a fake gun but not whether he brandished it at any point during the incident.
Investigators are looking at the possibility that the shooting was a case of "contagious fire" -- a phenomenon in which an officer opens fire after he hears other officers shooting and misinterprets the shots as being an attack against himself.
The source, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said officials are also trying to determine whether the officers were appropriately positioned to avoid firing on civilians.
The shooting occurred near the busy intersection of La Brea Avenue and Market Street, next to a barbecue restaurant filled with patrons. One of the rounds grazed the head of a motorist driving by, and bullet marks could be seen on a wall near the shooting site. Officers also shot a dog belonging either to Franco or another homeless man.
The string of shootings has led the state's Legislative Black Caucus to ask California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to investigate the Inglewood Police Department and has raised questions about the training of Inglewood officers.
"People need to have confidence in their police; they must feel that they're there to protect and serve them and they shouldn't fear them," said Assemblyman Curren Price Jr. (D-Inglewood). "Incidents like this cause people to wonder."
Most Inglewood city leaders have declined to comment on the latest shooting. But Councilman Daniel Tabor said in an interview with The Times late Tuesday that he was troubled by the situation, adding that 40 shots fired "seems a bit excessive."
"This rash of shootings has stressed my patience and understanding," he added. "In my conversations with the chief, I acknowledge that she inherited this department, but it's time we got a clearer understanding on where we're going and how fast we're going to get there."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Office of Independent Review and the district attorney's office are already investigating three previous incidents in which Inglewood officers shot civilians in recent months:
* On May 11, officers killed Michael Byoune, 19, and wounded two other men. Police reports said the officers mistakenly believed the men, who were unarmed, were firing at them. Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks later labeled the shooting "a very tragic outcome."
* On July 1, Ruben Walton Ortega, a 23-year-old alleged gang member, was shot and killed by an Inglewood officer when police said he reached into his waistband as he ran from an officer. Police said at the time that the officer believed Ortega was armed.
* On July 21, police shot and killed Kevin Wicks, 38. Police said Wicks raised a gun at Officer Brian Ragan, who was responding to a report of a family disturbance at Wicks' apartment complex. Ragan was one of two officers involved in the Byoune shooting.
The latest incident puts new pressure on Seabrooks, who went to the scene of the Sunday shooting. But she and others in the department declined requests to answer questions about what happened.
According to officials, police responded about 2 p.m. Sunday to a report of a man with a gun. They discovered Franco, who was carrying a fake chrome-handled gun in his waistband. At one point they fired a "less than lethal" beanbag at him, police said.
According to a Police Department statement, officers opened fire when Franco reached for his waistband.
University of South Carolina professor Geoffrey P. Alpert, a leading expert in police use of force, said the investigation will probably focus on whether the officers felt an imminent threat from Franco or whether some fired after hearing the gunshots.
Police are authorized to use deadly force if they feel an imminent threat, but if several officers standing in different places open fire at a single suspect at the same time, it may be difficult for each to say he felt such a threat, Alpert noted. "The question becomes what did each individual officer see as a threat, and when did he or she see it," he said.
Roger Clark, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's lieutenant and a nationally recognized expert on police procedures, said the number of rounds fired, particularly when the suspect was not firing back, raises concerns.
"To have 40 rounds of hot lead sprayed where people are living, and where there are little children around, cannot be justified," he said.
Investigators were still trying to determine how many rounds were fired but said the number was more than 40, according to the source close to the investigation.
Another law enforcement source, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the officers fired at least 50 rounds.
Contagious fire has been likened to a chain reaction in which police officers hear gunshots and fire almost as a reflex. Experts say officers tend to be more likely to fire when they see colleagues shooting -- a defensive response that can best be addressed through training.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department altered its training procedures after a controversial shooting in May 2005.
In that case, which led to an unusual public apology from Sheriff Lee Baca and those who fired their weapons, 10 deputies opened fire on an SUV they were chasing, discharging 120 rounds in a Compton neighborhood, injuring a deputy and wounding an unarmed suspect while sending bullets into five nearby homes.
Sheriff's officials said contagious fire probably played a role in five shootings from 2002 to 2005.
On Tuesday night, about 30 people, including community activists, held a candlelight vigil.
Said Ben Owens, 43, a member of the group Cease-Fire: "We're confused, we're hurt, we're angry."

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MassCops Angel
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Inglewood officers placed on leave

Four days after an unarmed homeless man was killed by police, the chief places 7 officers on leave. City Council insists on better training.



Inglewood Chief of Police Jacqueline Seabrooks takes questions from the media at news conference regarding a May 2008 officer-involved shooting that left one man dead and another wounded in Inglewood, Calif. The police chief Wednesday called the fatal shooting of an unarmed man "highly tragic" but said the officers who shot him may have been within policy. At left, a police photo shows bullet holes shot from the inside of the patrol car by police officers. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


By Andrew Blankstein and Ari. B. Bloomekatz
The Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Four days after officers fatally shot a homeless man who had a toy gun in his waistband, Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks broke her silence on the shooting Thursday, expressing concerns about the officers' tactics and saying she had placed seven of them on administrative leave.
"We could have done a better job tactically," Seabrooks said of Sunday's shooting in which officers fired as many as 47 rounds, killing the man and wounding a motorist as well as a dog. "I would have preferred that far fewer rounds would have been fired."
Seabrooks, who has been chief of the 190-officer department since last year, said the shooting was "very disturbing to the community, to the administration, the Police Department."
Her comments, in an interview with The Times, followed the release of a statement by the Inglewood City Council calling on Seabrooks to consider "a sweeping training program" for the entire department.
Sunday's shooting of Eddie Felix Franco, 56, was the department's fourth fatal officer-involved shooting in as many months.
Three of those slain by police were unarmed, causing concerns among residents and police activists that officers were using poor judgment when deciding to use deadly force.
Seabrooks has also drawn criticism for failing to provide the public with details about the shooting after it occurred. She defended herself, saying she did not want to release information before it had been verified.
In Franco's case, police said officers opened fire when Franco appeared to reach for a gun in his waistband. The object was actually a realistic-looking toy gun, Seabrooks said. The toy had an orange tip, but it was concealed from the officers' view, she added.
Seabrooks said Franco appeared to be intoxicated and failed to follow officers' orders to stand still and keep his hands up.
A source close to the investigation told The Times that officials were looking at the possibility that the shooting was a case of "contagious fire" -- a phenomenon in which an officer opens fire after he hears other officers firing and misinterprets the shots as being an attack.
The source, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing, said officials were also trying to determine whether the officers were appropriately positioned to avoid firing on civilians.
The shooting occurred near the busy intersection of East Hillcrest Boulevard and South Market Street, near a barbecue restaurant filled with patrons. One of the rounds grazed the head of a nearby motorist, and bullet marks could be seen on a wall near the shooting scene.
The wounded dog belonged to another homeless man.
Police officials have refused to identify the involved officers. Seabrooks said she planned to release their identities today.
The City Council, which had also largely remained silent on the most recent incident, met behind closed doors for about 3 1/2 hours Thursday to discuss the shootings. When the council adjourned, it released a one-page statement saying the officers involved in the shooting would not return to the field until they had "received enhanced training."
"These recent and tragic officer-involved shootings are deeply disturbing to the City Council, as they are to all citizens," the council said in its statement. "The City Council has directed Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, the city administrator and the city attorney to take immediate steps to evaluate and implement, if necessary, a sweeping training program for officers department wide."
In an interview Thursday evening, Councilman Daniel Tabor said he and his colleagues decided they needed to be more involved in helping the chief run the department.
"Before, we were delegating in communication with the chief; now we're taking more direct action," he said.
Adrianne Sears, chairwoman of the citizens' police oversight commission, said the council's action was not enough.
"Inglewood police officers are sworn to protect the residents of Inglewood. But given recent events, the community has come to question the department's effectiveness," she said. "This is a step in the right direction, but it's a step. This certainly is not all that needs to be done."
In addition to Inglewood's internal investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Office of Independent Review and the district attorney's office are investigating all four shootings in which Inglewood officers shot civilians in recent months:
* On May 11, officers killed Michael Byoune, 19, and wounded two other men. Police reports said the officers mistakenly believed the men, who were unarmed, were firing at them. Seabrooks later called the shooting "a very tragic outcome."
* On July 1, Ruben Walton Ortega, a 23-year-old alleged gang member, was shot and killed by an Inglewood officer when police said he reached into his waistband as he ran from an officer. Police said at the time that the officer believed Ortega was armed. Seabrooks said he was not.
* On July 21, police shot and killed Kevin Wicks, 38. Police said Wicks raised a gun at Officer Brian Ragan, who was responding to a report of a family disturbance at Wicks' apartment complex. Ragan was one of two officers involved in the Byoune shooting.
The string of shootings has led the state's Legislative Black Caucus to ask state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to investigate the Inglewood Police Department.
A spokesman for Brown's office said the attorney general would wait until the district attorney and Office of Independent Review were finished with their probes before making a decision to investigate.
Meanwhile Thursday, Franco's older brother said in a telephone interview that he was in disbelief and angry about the shooting. "We lost track of him a year ago," said Arthur Franco. "We were hoping he wasn't lying dead in the desert."
Franco said his brother had been living on the streets since 1996. But before that he had been married and had worked for a telephone company for 12 years. He was a father of four children.
He said his brother had struggled with alcoholism and drug use and was often in and out of rehab centers, as well as jails near the Coachella Valley. Franco said family members took turns trying to take care of him, but in the end, Eddie Franco liked staying outside.
Family members said it wasn't unusual for him to be away for a long period of time, but said this particular time it had been too long.
"We were about to file a missing-persons report," Franco said. "Then we learned about his death."
Franco said he had been watching the news about the Inglewood police shooting but didn't think anything of it, other than the police had been involved in the fourth shooting. Tuesday afternoon he said a relative called him to say that his younger brother had been shot by police officers.
"We understand he had a toy gun and police had to do what they had to do," Franco said. "Still, he was drunk. How was he going to injure anybody?"

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MassCops Angel
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
March 15, 2009

Inglewood PD pledges to cooperate with feds

By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Jack Leonard
Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the Inglewood Police Department in the wake of several officer-involved shootings of unarmed suspects and other incidents in which the agency has been accused of using excessive force.
A Justice Department spokeswoman described the investigation as a "pattern or practice" inquiry into the Police Department that is being handled by the federal agency's civil rights division in Washington.
The probe marks the second ongoing investigation into the department, which was the focus of community protests last year when officers shot and killed four people -- three of them unarmed -- in the span of four months. The L.A. County Office of Independent Review, which monitors the Sheriff's Department, began probing the Police Department's tactics last year at the request of the city.
The announcement also comes less than three months after a Times investigation found that Inglewood police officers repeatedly resorted to physical or deadly force in the last several years against suspects who were unarmed or accused of minor offenses.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who was among several politicians who called for an outside investigation into possible police misconduct, said she was gratified by the Justice Department's decision.
"I have been extremely concerned about the alarming number of police-involved shootings in Inglewood," she said in a statement Thursday.
City officials said federal investigators plan to examine past procedures and tactics involving force used by Inglewood officers.
"We will cooperate completely in all aspects of this investigation," Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said in a statement. "We have been at work for months in implementing reforms aimed at improving how our officers go about their jobs."
The Justice Department alerted the city by letter Wednesday afternoon that the agency was beginning a review of the department, Lt. Mike McBride said.
The purpose of such reviews is to ensure proper management and oversight at police departments and, if needed, to bring federal lawsuits to pressure local authorities into reforming their operations.
The L.A. County district attorney's office is also reviewing each of the shootings for possible criminal charges against the officers -- as it does for all police shootings in the county that result in injuries or death.
Since 2003, Inglewood police have shot and killed 11 people, five of them unarmed, according to law enforcement records reviewed by The Times. Among them was Jule Dexter.
Dexter was shot in the back and the head in June 2005 after being detained for drinking in public. The officer who fired the shots said Dexter was slow to obey an order to remove his hands from his pockets and appeared to fumble with what the officer feared was a weapon.
But witnesses said Dexter, 27, was shot as he reached to pull up his slipping pants. The city paid $725,000 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Dexter's family. The officer was suspended for 16 days.
That shooting, along with others, prompted some officers to complain about the department's policy on when to shoot and about a lack of training.
In addition, the department has been criticized over its use of electric stun guns. The Times found that two Inglewood officers were involved in shooting unarmed suspects with Tasers four times in five weeks.
Waters called on the Justice Department to intervene after the Aug. 31 killing of Eddie Felix Franco, a 56-year-old homeless man who had a realistic-looking toy gun in his waistband. Authorities said officers fired at least 47 rounds at Franco when he appeared to reach for the gun. A nearby motorist was struck and grazed in the head by one of the bullets.
Franco was the fourth person killed in as many months. The others were:
* Michael Byoune, 19, who was killed on Mother's Day, May 11, after he went to a hamburger stand with friends. Police officials said officers believed they had come under fire when they killed Byoune and wounded his two friends. None of the men were armed.
* Ruben Walton Ortega, 23, an alleged gang member who was shot and killed July 1 by an officer who said Ortega reached into his waistband as he ran from police. He was unarmed. Last week, prosecutors concluded that the officer "honestly believed he was in imminent danger" when he opened fire.
* Kevin Wicks, 38, a postal worker who was killed inside his home July 21 when police said he raised a gun at Officer Brian Ragan, who was responding to a report of a family disturbance in Wicks' apartment complex. Ragan was also one of two officers involved in Byoune's shooting and remains on paid leave, McBride said.
Inglewood Councilman Daniel Tabor said he believed the Justice Department would find that the city had taken swift measures to reform police training after last year's shootings.
About 70% of the agency's 191 officers have been enrolled in a 120-hour training program to improve tactics, according to the department.
Adrianne Sears, chairwoman of the Inglewood Citizen Police Oversight Commission, said she hoped that the Justice Department's investigation would "help to restore the public's trust in our department."

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Zombie Hunter
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While no one disputes that "sympathetic fire" or "contagious fire" as the article refers to it is a real problem with police training, looking at this incident at its core, I find nothing wrong with actions of the officers. A man refused to obey orders and reached into his waistband for what appeared to be a handgun. The police officers fired in response, it was practically a suicide-by-cop, end of story. If he wanted to live, he should have obeyed the police officers on scene.
 
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