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LAPD shooting of autistic man demands policy review, ACLU says

March 23, 2010 |  9:06 am

The ACLU is demanding the Los Angeles Police Department examine its policies after officers shot and killed an autistic man in Koreatown early Saturday morning.

Steven Eugene Washington, 27, reached into his waistband for what officers believed was a weapon, authorities said. Although no weapon was found, officers said they feared for their lives because Washington did not respond to their commands and appeared to be reaching for his waistband.

Hours after the shooting, Washington's relatives criticized police and said the dead man had suffered from learning disabilities and was generally afraid of strangers. They insisted that he was not violent and that he probably was walking home after visiting a friend.

Ramona Ripston, the ACLU executive director for Southern California, said in a statement that the LAPD needs to provide more information to justify the shooting.

"We urge the LAPD to go beyond a one-time investigation examining the conduct of the officers, and take a broader look at changes in department policy and training that could help prevent such a tragedy from recurring," she said.

Police identified the gang enforcement officers involved as Allan Corrales and George Diego, who have served nearly seven and eight years with the department, respectively. Both have been reassigned until the probe is completed, police said.

Corrales and Diego were driving south on Vermont Avenue near James M. Wood Boulevard shortly after midnight when they heard a loud sound, according to police. They turned the marked police car around and saw Washington walking north on Vermont while looking around and touching something in his waistband area.

The officers spoke to Washington, but he approached them and seemed to remove something from his waistband, police said.

Corrales and Diego believed "he was arming himself" and fired, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said at weekend news conference.

"The officers made decisions in a fraction of a second," he added.

It appears the officers fired once each, Paysinger said. It's unclear which bullet struck Washington.

-- Shelby Grad

Learn about more than 100 fatal officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles County since January 2007 on The Times' interactive Homicide Report.


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

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