The Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) has finally released body camera footage of the controversial killing of Charley “Africa” Keunang.
When Keunang was shot and killed by officers on Skid Row three years ago, a bystander caught the deadly encounter on a cell phone–prompting millions to respond with outrage at the apparently unnecessary loss of life.
After Keunang’s death on March 1, 2015, protesters in Los Angeles organized under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter, seething with a sense of injustice and criticism of over-policing in LA’s poorer quarters–where many suffer from chronic homelessness and mental illness. Fourteen people were arrested during that protest.
Calls for the LAPD to release their own footage of the incident were dismissed and ignored for years.
The Los Angeles Times obtained the footage from a federal court where two body camera videos were recently submitted as evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles filed by Keunang’s relatives.
The video begins with Officer Francisco Martinez berating Keunang. Keunang attempts to state his case but Martinez refuses to listen, saying instead, “We’re going to do things my way.” Keunang repeatedly tries to speak, but each time his pleas are drowned out by Martinez, who requests a Taser. From that point on, Keunang is repeatedly told that he is going to be Tased and that it is going to hurt.
Keunang himself refuses to comply with officers’ demands that he post up against a nearby wall–instead retreating to his tent and asking not to be bothered. The officers then begin to dismantle Keunang’s tent and force him out onto the sidewalk. A physical altercation ensues as Keunang spins around with his arms outstretched–prompting the officers to grab Keunang and wrestle him to the ground.
The next few moments are chaotic. Keunang is on the ground. Multiple officers take part in the dogpile and seemingly attempt to subdue him–with little success. Then, a rookie officer shouts, “He has my gun!” (It’s impossible to tell if this actually happens.) After that, six shots ring out in quick succession. And Keunang dies on the pavement that was his temporary home.
All three officers were later cleared of any wrongdoing in Keunang’s death.
The LAPD has a longstanding policy of refusing to release body camera footage and thus subject such footage to public inquiry. The release of official police footage of the Keunang killing is likely to prompt new debate on whether California’s largest police force will be forced to reckon with transparency.
[image via screengrab]