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Villaraigosa: Officer who shot Guatemalan immigrant a 'hero'

People gather at the memorial for Manuel Jamines, a Guatemalan immigrant who was shot and killed by an LAPD officer at Sixth Street and Union. The shooting has prompted angry protests.
People gather at the memorial for Manuel Jamines, a Guatemalan immigrant who was shot and killed by an LAPD officer at Sixth Street and Union. The shooting has prompted angry protests.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Friday came under fire for praising the officer who fatally shot a Guatemalan day laborer on Sunday.

The mayor’s promised an unbiased investigation into the shooting. He’s also lauded the officers who confronted Manuel Jamines as he threatened people with a knife.

“These officers acted with, I think the facts will indicate, a great deal of personal heroism.”

Even Police Chief Charlie Beck stopped short of calling his officers heroes.

Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, who has condemned the shooting, said the mayor's comments were inappropriate.

“It’s one thing to stand by your police department in the main," Lafferty said. "It’s another thing in a high profile case where a police officer may have been engaged in criminal wrongdoing to prejudice the outcome of any investigation.”

The mayor wondered why people didn’t accuse him of prejudice when he condemned police officers after they clashed with immigrant rights activists in MacArthur Park three years ago. He said there's nothing wrong with his speaking out, even as he promises a full investigation.

"I call 'em as I see 'em." Villaraigosa said.

The shooting has sparked protests by people who wonder why police didn't use less lethal force. Some have said the shooting is part of a history of police abuse in the immigrant communities west of downtown Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the police officer who shot and killed a Guatemalan immigrant who authorities said was threatening people with a knife is being sued by a man claiming he was unlawfully shot by the officer in 2008.

Joseph Wolf, who was 19 at the time of the incident, said in the civil rights and negligence lawsuit that Officer Frank Hernandez shot him in the leg then made up allegations to justify the shooting.

Hernandez is currently on administrative leave following Sunday's shooting of Manuel Jaminez.

KPCC wires contributed to this story