A Los Angeles police officer responding to reports of vandalism in the Mid-Wilshire area Thursday morning shot and critically wounded a man with a skateboard after a struggle, officials said. A neighbor said he witnessed the shooting and thought it was excessive.
“When they arrived, they saw a man who matched the description of the suspect, who was breaking storefront windows with a skateboard,” LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera said. The officers repeatedly told the man to stop the vandalism but he refused, she said.
An officer used a Taser in an effort to subdue the man but it had no apparent effect, LAPD said in a statement.
"At some point during the struggle the suspect was able to gain control of the Taser and turn it against one of the officers," said LAPD Commander Andy Smith.
The officer's partner opened fire - shooting the man in the upper body. The two officers and the suspect were then on the ground.
"Both officers are being treated for their injuries," Smith said. "One of the injuries on an officer's leg is consistent with a burn from a taser."
The officers have since been released from a local clinic.
Patrick Comiskey said he was walking his dog on Sycamore, near where the incident occurred in the 800 block of South Sycamore Ave. He came upon the two officers – one male, one female – struggling with the man. The man appeared “disheveled” and possibly homeless, he said.
Comiskey said he stopped about 30 yards away and witnessed what happened.
“They had him pinned to the ground. He was face down against some steps,” Comiskey said. “They were having difficulty keeping him down, but they managed to get his arms behind his back.”
At that point, the male officer reached toward his belt. Comiskey thought the officer was grabbing for handcuffs. Instead, he heard a gunshot.
“It was virtually point blank – he was at most two feet away,” said Comiskey, a wine critic who lives about two blocks away. “The man collapsed on the ground and he stopped struggling.”
“I was shocked that I had heard a gunshot,” he said. “I believe what I saw was excessive.”
The neighborhood is usually pretty quiet except for a few car break-ins, Comiskey said.
The shooting comes amid increased scrutiny of police use of force in Los Angeles and around the country. It occurs days before the LAPD begins department-wide training on deescalation techniques and how to approach homeless and mentally ill people without using force.
The LAPD’s Force Investigation Division is investigating the incident, along with the Inspector General and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
This story has been updated.