Crime & Justice

Skid Row police shooting: Family, city officials react to allegations of conflicting body cam video

Charly Keunang was fatally shot by an LAPD officer after scuffling with police on Skid Row in March. Now, a GQ article claims police were the ones who escalated the incident.
Charly Keunang was fatally shot by an LAPD officer after scuffling with police on Skid Row in March. Now, a GQ article claims police were the ones who escalated the incident.
Courtesy of Ventura County Sheriff's Office

Listen to story

00:49
Download this story 0MB

A GQ article disputing LAPD's account of the fatal shooting of a homeless man on Skid Row in March has provoked reaction from the man's family and city officials who are reviewing the incident.

On Thursday, Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said he's asked the Inspector General, who independently investigates all officer-involved shootings for the commission, to fact-check the article line by line.

"It's important for me and the other commissioners who will eventually adjudicate this case that we have as much good information as possible," Soboroff said.

The article, which appeared in GQ this month, alleges police were the ones to escalate the tension and violence in the incident, which contradicts the narrative LAPD officials gave in the early aftermath of the shooting.

LAPD said at the time that Charly Keunang, who had a serious criminal record and was living under a stolen identity, defied police commands, scuffled with officers and reached for an officer's holstered gun. Part of the incident was captured on cellphone video and the story drew international attention.

At a press conference in the days after the shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck showed reporters a photograph of the officer's gun -- which had a round partially discharged -- as evidence of a struggle over the weapon. 

Jeff Sharlet, the author of the GQ article and an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College, said he reviewed footage from body cameras worn by police officers, but declined to say how he got access. He wrote the video shows the officer unholstering and re-holstering the gun three times after the struggle, which may negate Beck's presentation.

He additionally alleges it looks like Keunang is trying to put his hands up before being shot.

The videos are not included in the story.

LAPD declined to comment on the article. The investigation into the incident by LAPD's internal affairs officers and the L.A. District Attorney's Office is ongoing. 

Dan Stormer, an attorney for Keunang's family said the allegations in the article, if true, are further evidence of what they've claimed all along.

"There is nothing which Charly Keunang did which should have resulted in him being killed by the LAPD," he said.

The family is in the initial stages of filing a lawsuit against the city.