VENICE, California — Close to 400 people convened on Thursday night at Westminster Elementary School in Venice for an emotion-laden town hall meeting about the death of an unarmed homeless man who was shot and killed in a confrontation with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Video footage is currently being reviewed by authorities to determine the reason behind the use of deadly force on Brendon K. Glenn, 29.
Top brass was in attendance, along with disenfranchised youth. There were also dozens of homeless people who were friendly or acquainted with Brendon, known by many as “Dizzzle.”
Upon entering the elementary school, three clipboards were strewn on a table, upon which attendees could enter their contact information. “I wouldn’t fill that out. The cops will have your information,” one woman said. ‘The cops are our friends,” another female responded. “Yeah, I’m sure the dead guy is saying that,” the woman retorted bitterly.
Police Chief Charlie Beck was not present. He had issued a statement the day before about Brendon’s death: “Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances at this point.”
The room was tense with expressions of anger, along with random ramblings and boos against law enforcement officials and politicians. A woman held up a sign that read “gentrification is racism,” and two men wore black T-shirts which read “I Can’t Breathe” on them; a throwback to the death of Eric Garner by the NYPD on July 17 of 2014.
“People in this community and beyond here are hurt and grieving for a senseless death,” Councilman Mike Bonin said. He noted that Brendan had been struggling with alcoholism but was working to turn his problem around.
“You killed someone I used to go skateboarding with!” someone shouted from the audience.
Glenn reportedly got into an altercation with a bouncer outside of a local bar in Venice on Tuesday, to which police responded around 11:30 p.m. After a brief chat with authorities, Glenn headed to the boardwalk where he was involved in another altercation. An attempt to detain him was made by two police officers, which is when the shooting took place.
Councilman Bonin, and practically every member of the panel that fielded questions from those present, was booed relentlessly on several occasions throughout the night. The panel consisted of Inspector general Alex Bustamante, Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala, Police commissioner Steve Soboroff, and Police Captain Armand Carranza.
A woman named Ariel asked about the LAPD addressing mental health issues in the field. “We always fail the homeless when we make the LAPD the first responders,” Bonin said, while noting that more was being done by the LAPD to get mental health professionals and social workers involved in responding to potential distress scenes where the homeless are involved.
A self-described activist named Steve said he didn’t want the issue to be “deflected into alcoholism, homelessness or mental illness” but to focus on the issue at hand which he said “is a crime. We are seeing this as part of a bigger problem across the United States.” He said that the problem was police brutality, which is a national issue.
The race card was brought up on several occasions–though each time it was presented by middle-aged, white women. Several others found a way to draw parallels between Brendon’s death and the firestorm of protests that have taken hold throughout the nation.
“Police officers are terrified of black men and so they shoot them,” said a woman named Nicole Lucas Haimes.
“You are the servants, we are the masters!” a disheveled man with faded blue hair who kept pacing up and down the aisle shouted at the panel. He sported a T-shirt which read “Lower-Class Rebel” on it. At one point he took to the mic, holding up a $7 copy of the U.S. Constitution, which he said he bought at Barnes & Noble, and cited Article VI, suggesting that “every single one of you is treasonous, according to this.”
Calls for video footage of the death to be shown were consistent, with one particularly vocal black man insisting throughout the meeting: “The video is the witness, lady! Show the video!”
Girmala said the LAPD has a copy of the video and is “breaking it down slide by slide… 48 hours after officer-involved shooting we are still actively looking for witnesses and information,” she told the audience. She then went on to explain that “the reason that video is not out there is because we cannot taint the memories of witnesses. We want [their testimonies] to be pure.” She then asked for anyone who was a witness to the crime scene to come forward.
Bishop Horace Allen of the First Baptist Church in Venice had a word at the mic as well. His church feeds thousands of homeless people every week, many of whom were present Thursday evening. “A lot of you come to our ministry to eat,” he said fighting back the boos and disrespectful shouts directed towards him after he said, “We are not here on anybody’s side but the truth’s.”
“We need to provide safety for people on there streets as well as the people who live here,” Bonin said. The District Attorney will make the determination as to whether there will be a persecution or not, Girmala said.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz