As Walter DeLeon remained in critical condition at L.A. County USC Medical Center, dozens of people gathered in Los Feliz Saturday evening to protest his shooting by an LAPD officer.
“It’s an outrage,” said Yovanna DeLeon, 45, his younger sister. “It's inhumane what happened to my brother.”
Their mother stood a few feet away sobbing. A niece held a sign that read “Justice for Walter.” Drivers along Los Feliz Boulevard honked their horns in support. But there was no joy among the dozens of people clustered on the sidewalk.
“No family, no mother, nobody should ever have to go through this,” DeLeon said.
The walk in part was to ask any witnesses to come forward. A flier posted on a street sign post read "Victim's family is seeking eyewitnesses to this incident," and provided a telephone number.
Walter DeLeon, 48, was shot by an officer around 6:30 p.m. June 19 after he approached police “aggressively” and pointed at them with one hand covered in a gray cloth, according to the LAPD.
The officer who shot him believed DeLeon was armed, according to a department spokesman. He was not.
It’s unclear why DeLeon was trying to flag down officers. He was shot in the head and has been unable to speak with detectives.
The LAPD has identified the officer who shot him as Cairo Palacios. He previously worked with the city’s Office of Public Safety in the General Services Department. He joined the LAPD in 2013 when the OPS was absorbed by the department. Palacios graduated from the Los Angeles Police Academy in 2007, according to the department.
Supporters of DeLeon gathered at the Mulholland Fountain and walked a few blocks to where he was shot along Los Feliz Boulevard. Many waved cloth rags similar to what DeLeon would carry on his walks, according to his sister. They laid the rags next to a candle and flowers at the base of a tree, where DeLeon was shot.
Some wore Kings hockey jerseys in honor of DeLeon’s devotion to the team.
“It’s not right the way they shot him,” said Jimmy Alvarado, a friend who manages the Hollywood building where DeLeon stays with his sister. He said it seems like police are too quick to assume people are a threat.
“They don’t give any opportunity to the people,” he said. “I don’t feel safe. They shoot people right away.”
The LAPD’s explanation that DeLeon’s rag-wrapped hand made officers fearful raised particular ire.
Roxanne Payan, 36, who got to know DeLeon when her mother rented him a room two years ago, said it doesn’t make sense that someone with a rag on their hand would present a threat. She also said it feels like a trend.
“This is not the first time the cops have shot an innocent person – whether they’re black, white, Mexican, short tall, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Christi Belden heard the gunshots the evening DeLeon was shot, and decided to join the march.
“I just feel so bad for the man,” she said. Until now, she had not paid much attention to police shootings of unarmed men.
“Since this event, I’ve become much more aware of what’s been going on around the country,” she said. “Its really eye opening.”