On Monday, KPCC listeners attended a panel discussion at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum in Little Tokyo to discuss the stories behind our Officer Involved investigative project, which documented the number of recent officer involved shootings in L.A. County.
A panel discussion is nothing new for public radio, but before the discussion, the LAPD allowed listeners to use its Force Option Simulator. The simulator is a computer program used to train cops who'll be facing dangerous situations: when should they shoot their gun, use their taser, try to talk down a suspect?
First up was West Covina's Ethan Shih. "I was called into a high school regarding a man who was assaulting people with a bat. I had a partner who was covering me. He had his gun out, so I decided to pick up my gun and follow him," Shih said.
The suspect appeared on screen, chasing after a woman and swinging a baseball bat before disappearing around a corner. Shih and his partner caught up with them, "but I didn't see her, so I thought the man was just by himself, smashing the furniture." He hesitated for a few blows, "then I noticed the girl, and that's when I decided [to] shoot three times."
Two shots missed, and the last grazed the assailant's lower back, but his shots were fired after what simulator operator Steve Shyy called a "skull crack."
"It was disappointing. I felt like I could have reacted quicker, but I had no idea what I was getting into. I had tunnel vision. My heart was beating. It was really difficult," says Shih. "It's really opened my eyes and kind of made me more sympathetic when [police] say they saw something or they were falling back to their training. I used to think that was a cop out, but now I realize that's pretty much the only option they have when violence goes this fast."
To hear more from the event, click on the audio player, and check out all the stories in KPCC's landmark Officer Involved project.