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Victim of LAPD’s fatal shooting in Westlake was unarmed, witness says

September 9, 2010 |  2:03 pm

A Westlake resident who said she witnessed the LAPD's fatal shooting of a Guatemalan day laborer said Thursday she saw no knife in the man's hands, contradicting the Police Department's account.

"He had nothing in his hands," said Ana, who did not give her last name and asked that her face be obscured on photos and on television because she feared being harassed by the police. "At the moment when the police were shooting, he had nothing."

Ana said she was across the street Sunday afternoon when the bicycle officers with LAPD's Rampart Division shot and killed 37-year-old Manuel Jamines, who police said was wielding a knife and threatening people in the crowded shopping district. Jamines' death has sparked protests and violent skirmishes night after night in the area near Sixth Street and Union Avenue, leading to clashes with the police and arrests.

Ana, who said she was interviewed by police on the day of the shooting, gave her account Thursday morning in front of a phalanx of television cameras and reporters during a press conference called by community activists. The activists said she contacted them after seeing a flier they passed out in the area.

She said she had just come out of a travel agency and was walking down the street when she heard the officers yell "drop the weapon" in Spanish. She said the man appeared drunk, and was having trouble keeping his balance. He stepped toward the officers, but it appeared to be an attempt to keep from falling forward, she said. Ana said she gestured to the man from across the street, trying to get him to turn around and let police arrest him.

But less than a minute after she first heard the officers' warning, an officer fired two shots into the man's head, Ana recalled. She said the impact from the shots, which she said were fired from about five to six feet away from Jamines, were such that blood splattered to the other side of the street where she stood.

Ana, who works in a school cafeteria, said she has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and believes that police have been over-aggressively cracking down on street vendors and seizing their products.

After the press conference Thursday, she met with state Assemblyman Kevin De Léon, (D-Los Angeles), who was on his way to a meeting with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

De Léon plans to ask the chief for a thorough and complete investigation into whether the shooting was justified, but believes opportunists are seizing on heightened emotion in the neighborhood to push their anti-police agenda.

"There are individuals exploiting the death and being opportunistic," he said. "They're not helping the situation."

Beck, who was heckled while trying to calm residents at a community meeting Thursday evening, has promised a fair investigation.

-- Victoria Kim