Inglewood police to release findings in fatal shooting of unarmed teenager

The victim’s cousin asks the City Council if police had begun to investigate whether use-of-force policies had been followed.

By Ari B. Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 14, 2008

Inglewood police will hold a news conference this afternoon to release some findings of the investigation into Sunday’s fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old man by two police officers, city officials said Tuesday.

The announcement by City Manager Timothy Wanamaker came late into a City Council meeting, moments before relatives of the victim, Michael Byoune, were slated to take the lectern.

Byoune’s cousin Paul Edwards, 29, read from a prepared statement during time set aside for public comment as the five-member council quietly listened. The room, which had been filled with chatter about redevelopment all evening, grew silent.

“Those of us who knew Michael Byoune knew him to be soft-spoken, caring and kind-hearted,” Edwards said. ” . . . Yet he was perceived as a threat, therefore deadly force was used to deal with this ‘perceived threat.’ ”

He asked the council why the officers’ names had not yet been released and whether the Police Department had begun to investigate whether its use-of-force policies had been followed.

Byoune was killed Sunday night by two officers who fired on the vehicle he was traveling in near Manchester and Crenshaw boulevards, apparently believing there was gunfire coming from the car.

The driver, Larry White, also 19, was injured. The officers have not been identified.

Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has expressed condolences to Byoune’s family but stopped short of calling the shooting a mistake.

Byoune’s family members speculated that Byoune and his friends heard the gunshots too, and were trying to flee when they crossed paths with the officers.

Inglewood police are still trying to piece together all of the details of the incident, but officials said it began about 1:40 a.m. Sunday when the two officers heard gunshots while on patrol.

Byoune was shot at least three times in the torso and died at the scene, authorities said. White was wounded in the leg. Another passenger in the car was not injured.

African American community leaders called for an independent investigation into Byoune’s death to find out whether proper police procedures were followed.

Byoune’s family and the public deserve to know exactly “what happened that night and what went wrong,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said Monday. “Because obviously something went wrong.”

The shooting was not on Tuesday night’s agenda, but was the subject of a 90-minute closed-session meeting before the regular meeting began.

Councilman Daniel Tabor said he wanted the city’s police chief to outline the sequence of events during the closed-door session to explain “how did we get to a situation where officers shot a young man eating a hamburger.”

Tabor, the father of a teenager, added, “My heart goes out to the family. You don’t want to get that call.”

Byoune’s relatives patiently waited for hours at the council chambers. His mother did not plan to address the City Council.

“I can’t speak. I just know that my boy is never coming back,” his mother, Jackie Roberts, said as she stood outside the chambers.

“His friends said he was upset because he hadn’t bought me a Mother’s Day present. He doesn’t have to worry about Mother’s Day anymore.”

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