Inglewood Mayor James Butts Tuesday announced that the five police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin "are no longer members" of the police department.
The announcement was unusual for several reasons. First, rarely, if ever in the often troubled history of Southern California law enforcement agencies have so many officers left a department as a result of their involvement in one incident. Second, the mayor said little else about what happened in the Feb. 21, 2016 shooting of Michael, a mother of three boys, and Sandlin, a father of four girls.
Key questions remain about what happened. Here are five of them:
- What prompted officers to open fire? This is a fundamental question around any police shooting. Police said they found Michael and Sandlin unconscious – it’s unclear if they were asleep or passed out – in a Chevy Malibu on Manchester Blvd at 3 a.m. The department said Michael had a handgun in her lap, but never said she or Sandlin presented a threat to officers.
- How long did officers wait before they opened fire? Mayor Butts initially said that when officers approached the car and found the two unconscious, they backed off and spent 45 minutes trying to wake them up and coax them out. He subsequently refused to confirm that version of events, and police never said how long officers waited. Michael was struck 13 times, Sandlin twice, according to autopsies conducted by the coroner. Michael died at the scene, Sandlin later at a hospital.
- Why were Michael and Sandlin unconscious in a car on Manchester Blvd. in the middle of the night? The coroner’s report found Michael had a blood alcohol level of .185 – twice the legal limit for driving, although she was in the passenger seat. Sandlin had .13, also over the limit for driving. Trace amounts of methamphetamine were found in Michael. No drugs were found in Sandlin.
- Were the officers fired or did they resign? Under California’s Peace Officer Bill of Rights, police departments are prohibited from talking about when or why officers are disciplined.
- What will the Los Angeles County District Attorney find? The DA’s Justice System Integrity Division sends people out to every police shooting in L.A. County. The division received a report on the shooting from the Inglewood Police Department last November. The DA only determines whether the officer acted criminally, issuing a letter at the end of the investigation. That letter offers details of what happened, and the reasoning behind the decision whether to file criminal charges against officers. There is no timeline for when the DA will conclude its investigation.