Lynwood, CA - A video of Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies gunning down a man, who had his back turned to them, is fanning the flames of protests and debate regarding law enforcement's use of force.
The short video, which was released yesterday, clearly shows 28-year-old Nicholas Robertson walking away as police opened fire on him. After the first deputy fired over a dozen rounds, the man can be seen falling to the ground, and in a desperate attempt to save his life, begins crawling away from the officer. At this point, a second officer arrives, and after a brief pause, both begin firing recklessly as the man crawls just feet away from a gas pump. In total, officers fired over 30 rounds at this man.
According to police, deputies were responding to several calls of a person described as a black man wearing a checkered shirt who was seen with a gun near Magnolia and Alpine avenues, Lt. Eddie Hernandez said.
The deputies claim they gave him "several commands" to drop the gun, but the suspect turned and pointed the gun at the deputies. However this cannot be seen on the video. Lt. Hernandez also stated that officers recovered a .45-caliber handgun and two "real bullets" lying near the suspect although it is unclear if the weapon was loaded.
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Officials have yet to name the officers involved, but in a press release, it was stated that multiple agencies are involved in an investigation into the incident, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau, and Internal Affairs Bureau. The investigation is expected to take several months, Lt. Hernandez said.
Saturday afternoon, protests were held at the scene demanding answers through a loudspeaker and holding signs. Robertson's mother-in-law attended the protest, and when asked for comment said the shooting greatly upset her.
"When they shot him in the shoulder and I see him falling, that’s injustice, for me," Pamela Brown said.
According to family members, Nicholas was married and had three children.
While details are still emerging in this tragic officer involved shooting, there is no doubt that what we are able to see in the video is in no way a "justifiable" use of force. Continually firing at a helpless man as he is crawling away is an act of true cowardice and speaks to the mentality that law enforcement harbors towards those they are sworn to serve and protect.
Johnny Liberty is a researcher and investigative journalist. You can follow him on twitter @LibertyUnltd