The officers involved in a high-profile police shooting on Los Angeles' Skid Row have been cleared of wrong doing, with prosecutors saying they acted in self defense.
In a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News, the Los Angeles County District Attorney stated that LAPD Sgt. Chand Syed and officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres "acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others" during the fatal shooting of Charley Leundeu Keunang, 43. The shooting happened on March 1, and gained national attention thanks to a video of the incident posted to Facebook by bystander Anthony Blackburn.
According to the memo, officers arrived on the scene after Keunang allegedly assaulted another man. Keunang then struggled with Officer Joshua Volasgis, resulting in the shooting.
"Keunang tried to grab Volasgis' firearm from its holster while falling to the sidewalk," the memo states, adding later that the officer "felt his gunbelt being pulled and twisted and felt his gun being pulled from the holster."
During the struggle, Officer Torres tried to stun Keunang with a taser. However, when Volasgis yelled out that Keunang had his gun, three officers — Torres, Martinez, and Sgt. Syed — opened fire. Keunang died at the scene.
Investigators reviewed both witness video, as well as surveillance footage and body camera recordings from Syed and Martinez.
The prosecutor's memo clears the three officers who opened fire of wrong doing. Prosecutors explain in the memo that "the abundance of physical and video evidence" shows that the threat was "as grave and imminent as the officers perceived them to be."
"Keunang posed a high likelihood of killing officers and civilians at the very instant that he was shot," the memo adds.
Keunang, who was known as "Africa," had been living on Skid Row for several months, witnesses told the Los Angeles Times. He was reportedly a Cameroonian national, but stole an identity to come to the United States in the 1990s. He had been convicted for robbing a bank robbery in 2000 and was supposed to be deported in 2013, until French officials rescinded the required documents.
A police commission also previously cleared the officers involved in the shooting, though it did fault Volasgis for "failure to maintain control" of his weapon.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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