Protests Follow Police Shooting of Unarmed Boy

LAPD internal affairs has begun its investigation into whether the officer’s actions were in line with department policy.

By Richard Fausset, Natasha Lee and Richard Winton
Times Staff Writers

3:45 PM PST, February 7, 2005

Angry residents today protested the police shooting of an unarmed boy in South Los Angeles on Sunday morning after police said the 13-year-old auto theft suspect backed his car toward an officer.

The boy was identified as Devin Brown, coroner’s spokesman David Campbell said today. Police did not identify the officer involved in the shooting, which occurred shortly before 4 a.m. at West 83rd Street and South Western Avenue.

About 30 area residents gathered today near the scene of the shooting to mourn and protest.

“I’m standing here for this baby because this didn’t need to happen,” said Paula Hodge, 48. “They put these guys [police] out here who they really know don’t like us…. If he was doing wrong, that didn’t give them the right to ki*l him in that way.”

Resident Antionette Munns, 41, said her son Curtis, 17, was a friend of Devin. She described the young boy as “full of life” and always riding his bicycle.

“I have to tell my kids, you don’t have to just worry about what’s going on in the neighborhood, you have to worry about police,” she said. “They’re supposed to be there to protect and serve but, as you can see, that’s not always the case.”

LAPD internal affairs has begun its investigation into whether the officer’s actions were in line with department policy. Police said that the officer fired 10 shots into the car. Deputy Chief Michael Berkow said the suspect was not armed.

The boy had refused to pull over when confronted by officers who thought they had come across a drunk driver, police said. That prompted a three-minute chase through South Los Angeles that ended when the boy drove the 1990 Toyota Camry onto a curb, police said.

A 14-year-old pblankenger jumped out of the car before the shooting and tried to run away. He was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto.

The slaying occurred nearly a year after LAPD officers fatally shot another fleeing motorist as he backed his car toward police at the end of a widely televised, 90-minute chase. That incident, which occurred near Santa Monica High School, prompted Police Chief William J. Bratton to announce in March that the department should place new restrictions on officers’ ability to fire at moving vehicles.

Bratton said that a new policy should prohibit officers from shooting at people in vehicles “unless the officer or other person are threatened by deadly force, other than the moving vehicle.”

A proposal to tighten the policy has been formulated since then but has not been considered for adoption by the Police Commission. David Cunningham, the commission’s president, said the group probably would decide whether to adopt the change in the next 30 days.

LAPD blankistant Chief Jim McDonnell said the proposal would make exceptions for officers whose lives were threatened by a suspect’s car.

Cunningham visited the site of the shooting Sunday afternoon, and said the police cruiser was badly dented and scratched, apparently from the impact of the stolen car.

Cunningham was reluctant to comment on a case under investigation, and said it was the commission that would determine whether the shooting was justified.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “I think what does make it truly a tragedy is that the decedent is so young.”

In a news release, police gave an account of the pursuit and confrontation.

Two officers in a patrol car first noticed the Toyota when it ran a red light on Gage Avenue and the Harbor Freeway. They also noticed that it was accelerating and decelerating erratically, and weaving from lane to lane. They followed the car onto the freeway and turned on their flashing lights and siren. When the driver kept moving, they tried warning him using their public address system.

They followed the car for more than three miles until it skidded onto the curbside at Western Avenue and 83rd Street.

After the pblankenger jumped out of the Toyota, the driver backed into the police car. An officer fired 10 shots into the car. The news release did not indicate where the officer was when he fired the shots, but it did say the pblankenger door of the patrol car was open.

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