Los Angeles police have identified the officer who shot and critically injured a man in Los Feliz last Friday night after he allegedly approached them in an aggressive manner, LAPD officials said.
Officer Cairo Palacios, a 9-year veteran of the force, is on paid leave pending an investigation, which is standard operating procedure, LAPD spokesman Mike Lopez told KPCC.
Palacios worked for a period of time with LAPD's General Services Department, where he was assigned to patrol Griffith Park. His partner, an 8-year veteran who hasn't been named, served in the same division. The two were trained as an LAPD officers as part of an effort to integrate the city’s law enforcement agencies and build the department into a 10,000-officer force.
At around 6:00 p..m on June 19th, police said 48 year-old Walter DeLeon flagged down Palacios' patrol car on Los Feliz Boulevard in heavy traffic. He then clasped and pointed his hands at the officers. His arm was covered with “some type of piece of cloth,” according to police.
Believing he was armed, Palacios ordered DeLeon to "drop the gun," police said. The officer then fired after DeLeon didn't comply, hitting him in the head.
An attorney representing Palacios said his client thought DeLeon had a gun and was going to shoot the officers, saying there were no indications DeLeon was trying to get their help. Attorney Gary Fullerton acknowledged it can be difficult for the public to grapple with police shootings of unarmed people, but said officers have the right to protect their own lives.
"The officer, when he went up to handcuff the man, was shocked to find just the cloth there and nothing under the cloth," Fullerton said. "It's unfortunate, but you can't expect officers to be clairvoyant and wait until they get shot at to actually know what this person is doing or thinking."
DeLeon remained in critical condition as of Friday.
The investigation now goes to the LAPD Chief Beck and the Inspector General before it is reviewed by the Board of Police Commissioners. Separately, the L.A. District Attorney will review the shooting as well.