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FBI investigates fatal shooting by Inglewood police

July 6, 2009 |  6:47 pm

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the Inglewood Police Department’s fatal shooting of 31-year-old Marcus Smith in May.

The criminal investigation, which was announced by the city in late June, is at least the third ongoing investigation into the department’s use of deadly force. The FBI confirmed that they had opened the investigation, but would not discuss details of the probe.

The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington is already looking into the department’s patterns and practices. The Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which monitors the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, is also looking at the department’s training, supervision, policies and protocol.

The department was the subject of several community protests last year after a spate of officer-involved shootings resulted in four fatalities between May and September. A Times investigation last year found that five of 11 people shot and killed by Inglewood police since 2003 were unarmed.

In a statement released June 25, Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the May 17 shooting was already being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as well separate internal criminal and administrative investigations. Seabrooks said her department will cooperate with all aspects of the FBI’s investigation.

“We are confident the FBI review will validate facts already made public about the incident, including our initial findings that Mr. Smith was armed and pointed his handgun at officers, resulting in the fatal shooting,” Seabrooks said.

According to a news release from the police department, officers came to the 800 block of South Osage Avenue about 12:45 a.m. on May 17 because of calls about people fighting, possibly at a party. The officers encountered a man with a handgun and Smith was shot, according to the release. One officer was shot in the leg and a semi-automatic handgun was recovered at the scene, according to the statement.

But some witnesses refute the police account of what happened and say Smith did not brandish a weapon. A woman who identified herself as his fiancé, Kalonna LaCount, said she and Smith were leaving the party together after police called on guests to disperse.

LaCount said that they were walking down a stairway when Smith slipped and that she then saw his body jerk as police fired their weapons.

“He had his hands in the air,” LaCount said in May. “The more he stumbled, the more they shot.”

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz