On June 19, a 48-year-old man allegedly approached two LAPD officers in their patrol car; when he raised a “towel-covered hand” and appeared to point it at them, he was warned–then shot in the head.
Afterwards, it was discovered the man was unarmed.
The man was Walter William DeLeon. The incident occurred on Los Feliz Boulevard.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the two officers said that DeLeon moved “aggressively” toward them. They feared he “had a gun…[and] ordered him to drop the weapon. When he didn’t respond, one officer opened fire.”
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said an investigation into the shooting is under way, and that includes trying to ascertain why DeLeon approached the officers to begin with. Smith said “there was no disabled car nearby or injury to his towel-wrapped hand that would indicate he needed help.”
In short, Smith said DeLeon “didn’t appear to be flagging down the officers because of some sort of emergency.”
Witnesses after-the-fact talked of looking out their windows after hearing gunshots and seeing DeLeon face down in the grass, handcuffed and bleeding from the head. Some of these witnesses said they were angry once they found out DeLeon was unarmed.
However, Steve Soboroff, president of the civilian Police Commission that oversees the LAPD, asks everyone to put themselves in the shoes of the officers and consider the decisions they are forced to make in split-seconds as a man approaches them with his hand drawn but shielded from view.
Soboroff said: “Try and put yourself in the officers’ shoes. This is about what happened pre-shooting, not after the shooting. Let’s find out the facts, just like every other shooting.”
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