Los Angeles, CA — After the Los Angeles Police Department publicly executed an unarmed homeless mentally ill man on video, none of them were charged. Now, after years of fighting for justice, the only people to be held accountable for the death of Charly "Africa" Keunang will be the taxpayers of Las Angeles—to the tune of $1.9 million.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Sergeant Chand Syed and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres "acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others" when they shot and killed Keunang, 43, on March 1, 2015, in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, local prosecutors wrote in a November 9, 2016 memo.
However, the facts of the matter show that this was not the case and police were the ones who needlessly escalated the situation and then executed an unarmed mentally ill man for no reason which is why the taxpayers are now shelling out nearly $2 million.
As Courthouse news reports, in their 2016 wrongful death lawsuit, Keunang’s family said he was suffering from a mental illness and was unarmed when officers approached him. His mother, Helene Tchayou, said that eyewitnesses, phone and body camera footage from the LAPD showed the officers were the aggressors.
Tchayou said the officers created a panic after Keunang had crawled into his tent, dragging him out and punching and shocking him with a Taser stun gun before Sgt. Chand Syed and officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres shot him at close range.
Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, told the LA Times that Africa had arrived in the area about four or five months before being executed. He reportedly told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a facility for the mentally ill.
The LA Times reported that Witness Lonnie Frank, 53, said five to six officers pulled up in three to four cars as Africa was lying face down on the sidewalk. The officers approached with guns drawn yelling, ”down, down.”
When Africa got up and started fighting, the officers “went straight to lethal force,” Franklin said.
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Chief Charlie Beck said at the time that the video showed Keunang reach for a rookie officers gun. The rookie, who was just short of completing his probationary period, can be heard yelling out, "He has my gun. He Has my gun."
The reason that a human life was ended that day by the LAPD had everything to do with the rookie yelling out those fateful words.
But did Africa really have this rookie's gun? Were the officers' lives ever at risk? Or, did these officers gun down a man in cold blood over this rookie's fearful mistake?
According to the LAPD, the officer's gun was found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon. However, as TFTP reported at the time, the idea of Keunang getting the gun from the officer was a farce from the state.
What's more, Keunang's DNA was never found on the officer's weapon.
“Hopefully, the city will look at the payouts they are making because of officer misconduct and start to train and limit the violent conduct of the officers,” Pasadena-based attorney Dan Stormer with Hadsell, Stormer and Renick, said on Tuesday.
“There was a desperate need to punish the cops involved, but the department decided not to,” Stormer said.
As is the case in so many acts of police brutality, the taxpayers will now suffer for the execution of a mentally ill man.