Villaraigosa defends police action in Westlake, says officers 'acted with bravery'
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday offered a vigorous defense of the officers who were involved in Sunday’s fatal police shooting of a man holding a knife, saying they were heroes who "acted with bravery."
One day after protesters shouted such words as "killer" and "assassin" at his police chief, Villaraigosa spoke at length about the circumstances surrounding the death of Manuel Jamines, a Guatemalan day laborer who was shot by a police officer on a busy Westlake street.
“Let’s be clear, and I will be, about what happened in the Westlake area,” Villaraigosa told reporters. “There was a man with a knife. That man with a knife was threatening individuals, innocent people who were on the street there. That man was in close proximity – in fact, the facts will show that actually he had his hand on at least one person at some point in that altercation.”
“We’ve got to go through an investigation,” Villaraigosa went on. “But when it’s all said and done, I’ll guarantee you what’s going to come out is that these guys are heroes, and I stand by them.”
Westlake, just west of downtown, has experienced three days of protests following the death of Jamines, 37, with two men arrested on suspicion of setting fires in the neighborhood during protests against the killing. Villaraigosa, who made his comments at an event devoted to a new city business initiative, said the neighborhood has seen homicides drop by 90% over the last several years.
He also voiced anger that protesters had shouted "murderer" at Police Chief Charlie Beck at a community meeting.
“I think those kinds of accusations are not only outrageous, they shouldn’t be repeated. I don’t know anyone in the command staff more committed to community-based policing. I don’t know anybody in the LAPD who has spent as many years as he has at Rampart and in South L.A. and on the Westside, with boots on the ground, actually in a patrol car, working with communities. I don’t know anybody that has more respect for the civil rights and civil liberties of our residents.”
Villaraigosa said the LAPD will follow an extensive process for investigating officer-involved shootings.
“It’s a tragedy that we’ve lost a life here. But under the circumstances, I think the facts will show that our officers acted with bravery in what they did,” he said.
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: From left, Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Commissioner John Mack and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in a press conference offering a detailed account of a fatal officer-involved shooting near MacArthur Park. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times