Los Angeles, CA — Los Angeles police previously released graphic body camera footage, showing officers opening fire on a man armed with a knife who’d taken a 49-year-old woman hostage. In the shooting, police killed both the man with the knife, and the innocent hostage. Now, the department is claiming that the officers who opened fire on the innocent women are being “disciplined.” However, they will face no criminal charges and will likely not even be fired.
On Tuesday, a civilian oversight panel ruled that two of the three cops who responded to the scene that day violated department policy on the use of deadly force. It will now be up to LAPD Chief Michel Moore to decide exactly what “discipline” measures he will take with the officers.
The LAPD identified the officers who responded to the Van Nuys hostage situation as Eugene Damiano, Andrew Trock and Cristian Bonilla but they made no mention of who was found in violation.
According to a 911 recording, officers were called to the scene on June 16, 2018, after a woman reported that a man had stabbed someone at her location. When officers arrived, they found Guillermo Perez, 32, who had just stabbed his ex-girlfriend with a knife.
According to police, Perez had a violent past and was recently released from prison after being convicted of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and domestic violence. Meanwhile, thousands of non-violent drug offenders remain in cages.
When officers confronted Perez, he held a chair as a shield and a large knife. As officers yelled for Perez to drop the knife, he did not comply.
At this point, officers opened fire on Perez with bean bag rounds, according to Moore. However, the chair shielded him from the blasts.
“He moved away from officers and grabbed an innocent bystander who was standing nearby. Perez began to cut the innocent bystander’s throat with a knife. That’s when three officers shot at Perez to stop his actions and prevent him from killing the hostage,” the chief said.
When Perez grabbed the innocent bystander, 49-year-old Elizabeth Tollison as a hostage, officers unleashed a torrent of gunfire. In total, officers fired 18 rounds, several of which struck Tollison, killing her.
“The life of the hostage is paramount and protecting that individual from the threat of the assailant, and in doing that, the balancing act that the officer has – is how to protect them by stopping the suspect’s actions,” Moore said at the time. “This was a tense situation that unfolded very quickly. It’s every officer’s worst nightmare.”
Justifying his future lack of “discipline,” according to the LA Times, “Moore said other officers with similar experience and training would have reasonably believed Perez presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”
But one of the officers “did not have a viable sight picture” of Perez before firing, which caused an “extreme potential for risk of injury to the hostage,” Moore said.
In the case of the second officer found to have violated policy, Moore said he took into “consideration the rapidly unfolding tactical situation” in which the officer made a “split-second decision under stressful circumstances.”
Judging from the chief’s comments it is highly unlikely that these officers will face anything more than a write-up or a short suspension, otherwise known as a vacation.
As for the family of the innocent hostage, they have filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the department.
Sadly, Tollison was the second hostage in only 6 weeks to be killed by LAPD officers. As TFTP reported last July, Melyda Corado, 27, was an assistant manager at a Trader Joe’s grocery store and her life ended tragically when her workplace became the scene where a police chase ended and officers started to exchange gunfire with the suspect they had been pursuing.
The Los Angeles Police Department has been surprisingly open with the public, and Moore admitted that the bullets that struck and killed Corado were fired by LAPD officers.
“The source of that round, we’ve recovered it, and ballistically we believe it’s from one of the two officers,” Moore said. “The fatal bullet first hit (Corado’s) arm, then entered her body.”
Just like he did in the incident above, the police chief attempted to defend the actions of the officers by claiming that they “had to make a split-second decision. I’m here to say that that is the worst, worst decision that any officer ever wishes to have to make.”
In Corado’s case, the assailant police were after, Gene Evin Atkins, 28, was unharmed in the shooting.