Protestors gathered outside the Los Angeles police station near MacArthur Park today, in response to Saturday's fatal shooting by police of a man with a knife allegedly threatening a woman.
Police called extra officers to the Rampart Community Police Station at about 1 p.m. today, when a officer said about 30-40 people were protesting outside. Another 30-40 people were also gathered at the shooting scene, two blocks to the west on busy Sixth Street.
At the downtown headquarters, a police spokesman said witnesses have told them the man who was shot had been a habitual drunk who, moments before he was killed, was threatening a woman with a knife. And he said tensions on Sixth Street were already high because LAPD officers have been preventing illegal
street vendors who gather there from peddling their wares.
"We have located several witnesses who told our investigators that they saw the suspect threatening people with the knife before our officers arrived,'' said LAPD Lt. Andrew Neiman, a department spokesman.
"One of those was a woman who said she saw the suspect threatening a woman with a knife,'' he said. "Her attention was drawn by a crying 4-year-old who was standing next to the woman.''
Neiman said the woman then intervened in the situation.
"She told the man to go away because he was scaring these people. At which time the suspect then turned his attention to her and began threatening her with the knife,'' he said.
At that point, Neiman said, several witnesses flagged down several bicycle officers and told them there was a man threatening people with a knife who was acting "irrational.''
Neiman asid the suspect was known to the neighborhood and that witnesses described him as a "nuisance, who was habitually drunk'', and often walked around with a "glazed look'' on his face.
Neiman said that when officers arrived at the scene they ordered the man in both Spanish and English several times to drop the knife but he refused to comply.
"Instead, he came after the officers with a knife raised in the air leading one of the officers to fire at the suspect fatally wounding him,'' said Neiman.
Area resident Kelly Flor, who identified herself as a community activist, told NBC4 at the scene the fatally shot man did not speak English.
"He could not speak English, so he could not understand what the officer was saying, and after that the officer proceeded in shooting him twice in the head.''
Although Neiman said only one officer fired at the suspect, there were several officers at the scene during the incident. However, he declined to name the officer who shot the unidentified man or state how many rounds were actually fired.
He also declined to say how long the officer who shot the suspect had been on the force or whether the suspect was known to any of the officers at the scene.
When questioned about the kind of knife and size of weapon the suspect had, Neiman responded, "I don't know.'' The lieutenant also said he didn't know whether this was a case of suicide by cop.
When asked why the officers did not use less lethal force to subdue a suspect witnesses said was likely intoxicated, Neiman said, "I don't know,'' and said "all the answers to those questions will come out in the final use of force report.''
Neiman explained that the bustling commercial street east of MacArthur Park is the scene of a great deal of "illegal street-vending'' and that officers from the nearby Rampart were heavily involved in policing that. This has apparently led to strained relations in the neighborhood, which led to some tense moments after the shooting, he said.
According to reports from the scene, a crowd formed around the body, which was covered with a white sheet.
"Assassin, assassin. You will pay for this,'' someone shouted in Spanish at police during a live NBC4 broadcast after the shooting.
Neiman said on Monday that a police supervisor -- a sergeant from Rampart -- was "jeered at, threatened and called names.''
The unidentified sergeant, he added, was not involved in the incident.
"He was just a Rampart supervisor who was at the scene after the shooting,'' said Neiman. "He is well known in the area and apparently he wasn't too popular with the people who were there.''
Neiman said the police are still gathering information and would like any witnesses to contact the LAPD's Force Investigation unit at (213) 486-5200.
Police withheld the man's name. An autopsy is pending.
"We have a name but the family who is out of the country and has not yet been notified,'' said a coroner's investigator named Burrows, who refused to reveal her first name. "I can tell you he was from Guatemala and his birthday was in 1972. But we haven't verified an exact date of birth yet.''
At least one city fire department truck was already at the scene of the shooting when it happened Saturday. A firefighter was heard radioing in a routine medical evaluation to dispatchers when he interrupted himself and blurted that "an officer involved shooting just happened next to the truck.''
Moments later, the firefighter told dispatchers that no police or firefighters were hurt, but that the shot person was not going to be taken to a hospital, indicating he was instantly dead.