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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck vows to 'fast-track' probe into fatal police shooting of day laborer

September 14, 2010 |  1:11 pm

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck vowed Tuesday to "fast-track" the investigation into the fatal shooting of a day laborer by a police officer near MacArthur Park.

Addressing the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, Beck said the inquiry would be completed "much sooner" than the eight months the department's Force Investigation Division typically requires to finish the several-hundred-page reports that follow such incidents.

Beck said he was uncertain when the report would be done.

The decision was an acknowledgment of the tense, highly charged atmosphere that erupted following the Sept. 5 killing of Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan day laborer.

In the encounter, a trio of officers confronted Jamines on a street corner in the Westlake neighborhood after a passerby alerted the officers that Jamines was threatening people with a knife. The officers repeatedly ordered Jamines in English and Spanish to drop the knife.

Beck and other officials have said Jamines, who also used the names Manuel Ramirez and Gregorio Luis Perez, raised the knife over his head and moved toward Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran. Hernandez fired at least twice, striking Jamines in the head.

For a few nights afterward, hundreds of people from the neighborhood, instigated by outside groups, took to the streets to protest the shooting. The rallies turned ugly, with people hurling bottles and other objects at the scores of cops who were called in to patrol the neighborhood, which has a large number of Central American immigrants and is considered one of the most densely populated in the country.

“This is an incident that has considerable interest in it from a lot of different perspectives," Beck said in an interview. "I felt it was important for the whole city, not just the department, that we get the facts out as soon as possible.”

He acknowledged that with more than two dozen people shot each year by LAPD officers, some critics may object to the idea of giving special attention to one investigation. But the strong reaction to the Jamines shooting required it to be prioritized, he said.

He also highlighted the department’s efforts to address the animosity felt by some in the Westlake neighborhood to the police, feelings that were laid bare by the shooting.

He told members of the Police Commission that, among other efforts, he plans to assemble leaders from the Central American immigrant communities to start a forum for periodic meetings.

Beck already meets with several forums for other ethnic and religious groups, an effort started by his predecessor, William Bratton.

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

Click to visit The Times' interactive Homicide Report