The shooting of a man holding a towel in Los Angeles' Los Feliz neighborhood last June did not violate Los Angeles Police Department policy, police commissioners said Tuesday.
The commission, which reviews officers' actions in shootings, agreed with recommendations provided by Chief Charlie Beck along with reports of witness statements. The shooting of Walter DeLeon will still be reviewed by the L.A. County District Attorney to determine if criminal charges should be filed, and DeLeon and his family have also filed a lawsuit.
On June 19, 2015, 48-year-old DeLeon was walking on a sidewalk when he told a bystander to call 911. Officers arrived as he was holding up a towel. Within seconds, he was shot.
According to the report made public Tuesday, DeLeon told the bystander he had a gun. In the transcript of a 911 call, the witness said DeLeon spoke to him as they passed each other.
"Call 911. Let them know I'm walking down the street and I have a gun in my hand," the report said.
Warning: Graphic video
DeLeon did not have a gun. When officers arrived, he walked toward their car with his towel-wrapped hand held at a 90-degree angle, the report said. One officer said it appeared he was in a shooting stance.
Several other witnesses also believed that DeLeon was holding a gun, according to the report.
"I saw the guy heading towards the police car with what looked like a gun under a towel," one said.
"He's standing like he's actually aiming something," another said. "And we both said to ourselves, 'my gosh, what's he aiming at? He must have a gun.'"
An officer yelled at DeLeon to drop his weapon, then fired three rounds. He was later identified as Officer Cairo Palacios.
DeLeon and his family dispute the police account of the shooting, and are seeking damages. Though DeLeon survived the shooting, he lost a portion of his skull and brain. He remains in need of care and will for the rest of his life, his lawyer said. In a statement, DeLeon struggled to speak, but said he was glad to be able to be a voice for those who did not survive police shootings.
"I am here for that purpose, to be heard and to bring change to the [police] department," he said.
On Tuesday, his lawyer Ben Meisalas responded to the commission's findings.
"What an outrage but apparently #brownlivesdontmatter," he said.
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at email@example.com.
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