LAPD discusses some details of fatal Watts shooting
In an attempt to quell simmering anger and dispel persistent "misinformation" in a Watts housing project, Los Angeles Police Department officials Friday took the unusual step of publicly discussing some details about the fatal shooting of an armed man last week by an LAPD officer and acknowledged that witness accounts contradict the one provided by officers.
After the Oct. 7 incident, LAPD officials released a basic account of how the shooting occurred based on interviews conducted with the involved officers:
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Officer Manuel Castaneda and his partner were patrolling the Imperial Courts housing development as part of a gang enforcement detail and came upon 18-year-old James Davis. The officers said they recognized Davis as a known gang member and, suspicious of his behavior, approached him. Davis reportedly shoved a woman toward the officers to distract them and bolted.
Castaneda shot Davis in the back after he pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it back in the direction of the officers, according to the officers’ account. They declined to explain how Davis had been shot in back if he was running.
At a news conference Friday, LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon sought to answer that question. He said Castaneda and his partner, who police did not identify, were several yards apart as they chased Davis. When Davis turned to the right to point his gun at the other officer, he exposed his back to Castaneda, Gannon said.
Gannon, who was joined by Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents the area, showed a photograph of the 9-millimeter handgun he said police found on the ground a few feet from Davis’ body.
He added that this was Castaneda’s second shooting. In a similar incident in 2009, Castaneda shot and wounded a suspect in the leg when the man pointed a gun at him.
Tensions flared after the Oct. 7 shooting as a large, angry crowd gathered. Police dispersed the crowd peacefully that night, but in the days since, heated talk of the shooting has persisted throughout the sprawling housing complex.
In one frequently repeated version of the incident, Davis was handcuffed and then shot. Others believe Davis threw down his gun and put his hands up to surrender, Gannon said.
Although much of the talk is rumor, Gannon said investigators have interviewed witnesses who contradict the officers’ account. He urged people who saw the shooting to contact police, saying such eyewitness accounts are crucial to determining what happened.
Anyone with information about the shooting should call the LAPD's Force Investigation Division at (213) 486-5230 or (800) 222-8477.
-- Joel Rubin at the LAPD’s Southeast Area Police Station
Follow Joel Rubin’s reporting on the LAPD on Twitter at twitter.com/joelrubin