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LAPD killing of autistic man was wrong, Police Commission rules

Photo: Members of Washington family. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

The civilian commission that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department has taken the rare step of rejecting a recommendation from the department's chief, ruling that two police officers were wrong when they fatally shot an unarmed autistic man last year.

Police Chief Charlie Beck concluded after a lengthy internal investigation that the officers made serious tactical mistakes during the brief, late-night encounter, but ultimately were justified in using deadly force against Steven Eugene Washington, 27.

The shooting drew sharp criticism from Washington's family, who said the man was autistic and fearful of strangers. Civil liberties groups questioned the shooting, suggesting that the officers may have overreacted because they had not observed Washington doing anything criminal.

"Police Commission overrules chief, says LAPD shooting was wrong"

--Joel Rubin

Photo: Members of Steven Washington's family. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (16)

It's clear by Chief Beck's findings of "serious tactical mistakes" he agrees that the shooting was indeed wrong. So, how could you keep two police officers on your force when such devastating and deadly mistakes are made? Is the LAPD saying that they're willing to tolerate such actions?

Also, to Paul Weber (police union) comments, "I don't know what they expect officers to do," he said. "Wait until one of them is shot before they react?" Shot with what, a holstered cellphone?

Isn't it great how law enforcement can create the very peril that affords them the so-called "justification" to use deadly force? We've seen it with DJ Henry in New York. We've seen with Zachary Champommier in Studio City. We've seen it with Reginald Doucet, Jr. in Playa Vista. We've seen it with Erik Scott in Las Vegas. Law enforcement is simply out of control. As we've seen here, no substantial punishment means this is bound to be repeated.

The officers may have made mistakes, but it's easy for us to sit back and decide after reading several articles. They only had seconds or less. It's a tragedy, but they don't deserve to lose their jobs. Officers commonly watch videos of officers getting shot or killed, so as not to make the same mistake(s). After watching so many videos, after being assaulted on the job for wearing a badge by hardcore criminals, as well as normal looking people, you change. No one is worth losing your life for, and in a shoot or don't shoot situation can arise at anytime.

I guarantee if you get a group of officers from different departments and gave them the same scenario in active training, a great number of them would shoot the person in Washington's place. Officers can't take chances when their number one priority is to make it home at the end of shift.

It was a tragedy and the police commission is wrong. Society has made it too easy to hate police or any authority figures. There are always articles like this one that have parents of alleged victims talking about how the police shouldn’t have shot their baby. I’ve seen it with people from my neighborhood and they didn’t care about their baby when he/she was alive. They didn’t care to make sure they were in school or staying out of trouble.
No police department is perfect that’s for sure, if there’s one, then God has shined light upon them. We’re all human, and it cannot be forgotten that those officers risk their lives every day. Again, it was a tragedy… And again, if his autism was that bad and he was not high functioning, then a family member should’ve been with him.

Hmm CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT BOARD, Last time i chekced they have never been cops.

Hmm next we will have Landscapers overseeing the bar association and all the lawyers who are licensed will be subjected to their uneducated thought without any background and/or experience.

Much to my wife's chagrin, I was featured on the local news in Tulsa once, at a "Town Meeting" that was held to placate the city after police, in one week, shot two people to death in two separate incident, while they were in their own yards. The first one was a 17 y/o retarded boy causing a commotion...the second was an eighty y/o man armed with an inoperable weed whacker. I was appalled and said so.

I am so sick of hearing police say "I was in fear for my life" in situations that could be handled by "standing by", and letting distraught people just get physically tired enough to easily subdue them. Are police these days in such a hurry to go on a "break" or what? The second line (whine) that I hear from police that I just can't abide is... "You don't know how hard it is out there on us, Man." If it is too tough for you on the street, find another type job that is more suited to your temperament. Written by... "A soldier"

Sure, there were issues. There usually is. The officers had to make a split second decision, that was NOT unreasonable, based upon the facts. Unfortunately, the Police Commission, made up of liberal civilians with no law enforcement experience, get to second-guess everything. When was the last time they had a gun pulled on them, or were shot at?

This is a horrible trajedy for all involved...the family & the officers. The officers were put in a terrible positon by the actions of a mentally ill man..was it the man's fault..NO..he is mentally ill. Is that the officer's fault...No. They had to react to the actions of a person that were not the actions a normal person would have taken, a sane person would have taken or an innocent person would have taken in that circumstance. The mans illness combined with the unusal circumstances of the occurance and how the man reacted when confronted by police officers contributed to a bad outcome for all involved. Unfortunately, the officer's don't have the time to review the instance from every angle and take a year to review what they should have done differently...they have to react to whatever actions are thrust at them..in a moment. That is why things like this happen from time to time. The officers aren't guilty of anything criminal. They were just placed in a no win situation that sometimes occur when dealing with the mentally ill or people under the influence. Sometimes there is no way to force a person to act reasonably..and this is what can happen.

So even if you grant the cops their necessity to shoot (which I don't), must you aim for the head? How about a disabling shot in the leg?

"Serious tactical mistakes," as reported by their own chief created a deadly outcome. Officers are to be trained to better, culpability should be higher. The union guy is off his rocker. If officers observed no unlawful activity from the autistic man, this is a cold-blooded murder. He reportedly was unarmed.

..its not fair for non-cops, in this case the civilian police commission, to pass judgment on something that they know nothing about...they were never cops....next, construction workers are gonna oversee surgeries and tell docs where and how to nip / tuck....autistic persons need supervision ...where was the caretaker ...family?? Maybe we should hold them accountable for dependent neglect / abuse

Police operate under extremely tight policies and procedures with the knowledge that every action will be potentially monday morning quarterbacked by by over 11 people with their own professional agendas. Factor in public opinion and professional bias (like or dislike of an officer by his/her supervisors masquarading as applying the rules) and a patrol officer is at a high level of professional risk. Few who stay at it do it long term. The risks are too high. Its a fools game and we ask kids to do it and sacrifice them to the gods of public opinion when we do. The officers did wrong. Duly noted. What benefit does the public receive by firing or prosecuting two officers who made some serious tactical errors. BETTER TO RETRAIN AND RETAIN AS A OBJECT LESSON THAN DISCARD AND PROSECUTE THOSE WE PLACE IN HARMS WAY TO SERVE US. Have some respect, grace, understanding and dignity for those who risk their very lives to save others. That is what is lacking from those that monday morning quarterback these incidents and which the chief asked the commission for.

I tell you what. If all of you think you can do a better job than go to the recruitment office and try to become a policeman and you can promote up the ranks and make all the changes you want based off you're vast law enforcement experience!

Better yet just get rid of law enforcement all together and let you folks fend for you're selves. Let's see how long it'll take for you to be begging for help because you can't do it.

As for you "soldier", I'm courious, how much combat have you been in? If you have been involved in any firefights or situations where you felt threatened? Things go down real quick right?

For the rest of you liberal critics, stop watching TV and believing what you see is real!! Shoot someone in the leg? Really??!! If all of you don't like the way the job is done than offer some realistic, logical suggestions or join the rank and file. Other wise, just be grateful that there are officers out there will g to die to protect you're sniveling butt!

LE Veteran

people who tell the police to shoot for the leg are idiots. (that comment is for "susan") and for the "soldier", don't lie you're not.

Psalm 50:6.

Police throughout all the States of the Union have taken it upon themselves to commit genocide on the poor, African Americans, Latinos, people of color. The genocide is not of the kind that we read about in Nazi Germany but the kind that kills generations over time. Trumped up charges, excessive force, backward prosecution, etc have made the minority community a prime target for feeding the prisons human beings of the aforementioned ethnic and economic backgrounds. Many police officers are great inidividuals. Are true heros and should be praised but many are corrupt. It does not take much to label the whole bunch rotten, just a few

By the time an officer makes a decision to draw his weapon, the decision has already been made that the use of deadly force may be necessary. Before an officer fires his weapon, he must have a reasonable belief that his life is in danger.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for an officer to mistake a someone pointing a cell phone at him for a weapon. But the shooting someone when the cell phone was still in the suspect's waistband and the suspect was not committing a crime was not a reasonable reaction. That cop shouldn't be on the streets and that's probably why the civilian review board rightfully rejected the chief's recommendation.

Nobody expects a police department to be perfect, but officers should be expected to act REASONABLY. Another commenter mentioned the Erik Scott case in Las Vegas. That was a prime example of officers who got flustered and reacted poorly to an individual carrying a concealed weapons permit. Instead of de-escalating the situation, they fired enough rounds to bring down an elephant.

Law enforcement is not for everyone. Officers that feel "threatened" in situations where the average officer would not feel threatened should not be in uniform.


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