France, Cameroon wouldn't take foreigner later shot by LAPD 

click to enlarge Protestors rally in downtown Los Angeles, against a police shooting of a homeless man on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Several dozen people rallied in protest of the shooting, which came amid lingering tensions in the U.S. over the police killings of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York City. - AP PHOTO/NICK UT
  • AP Photo/Nick Ut
  • Protestors rally in downtown Los Angeles, against a police shooting of a homeless man on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Several dozen people rallied in protest of the shooting, which came amid lingering tensions in the U.S. over the police killings of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York City.

A homeless foreigner shot to death by police on Los Angeles' Skid Row was in the country illegally after serving time for a bank robbery but couldn't be deported because no country would take him, U.S. immigration authorities said Wednesday.

France issued travel documents for a man identified as Charley Saturmin Robinet but rescinded them in June 2013 after determining it was an assumed name and the man was really from Cameroon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement.

ICE, which had issued a deportation order in April 2013, said Cameroon consular officials failed to respond to repeated requests for travel documents after France spurned him.

A person who said he has just one name, Bindz, and heads the consular section at the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in Washington, D.C., said he cannot respond to questions by telephone and the ambassador would have to respond to a written request for information.

The homeless man, known on Skid Row as "Africa," was shot to death Sunday. The confrontation that led to his death was recorded on a bystander's cellphone and viewed millions of times online.

Authorities said the man tried to grab a rookie Los Angeles police officer's gun, prompting three other officers to shoot him.

Like many people on Skid Row, the man suffered from mental illness and his background was murky. He told U.S. authorities he was from Cameroon and gave a different name — Keunang — after France rejected him, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public.

The man was in immigration custody in September 2013 when a federal judge in California ordered him to a halfway house. The man had no place to stay and no permanent address.

The man had served roughly 13 years in prison and spent six months in the halfway house before he was released in May 2014, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration authorities cannot detain people indefinitely just because no country will take them. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the government would need a special reason to keep someone in custody after six months if deportation seemed unlikely in "the reasonably foreseeable future."

"ICE makes every possible effort to remove all individuals with final orders of removal within a reasonable period," Kice said.

Kice said the man regularly reported to immigration officials as required by terms of his release.

Axel Cruau, consul general for France in Los Angeles, said the man stole the identity of a French citizen to obtain a French passport in the late 1990s to come to the United States to pursue an acting career.

"The real Charley Robinet is in France apparently living a totally normal life and totally unaware his identity had been stolen years and years ago," Cruau said.

Using that name, the man was identified as a French national in 2000 when he was convicted of robbing a Wells Fargo branch and pistol-whipping an employee in what he told authorities was an effort to pay for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

That arrest spurred the consulate to provide the man with support, but as he was nearing his release from prison in 2013, officials found the real Robinet in France, Cruau said.

While in federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, the man was assigned to the mental health unit, and federal officials said medical staff determined he had "a mental disease or defect" that required treatment in a psychiatric hospital, documents show.

Under the terms of the man's release, he was required to provide reports to his probation officer each month, Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Cordova said. When he failed to do so in November, December and January, a federal warrant was issued Jan. 9.

Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which represents U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, said she cannot talk about the case, even if the man is deceased, because of the ongoing investigation.

Records show the man was required to be under supervised release by U.S. probation officials for at least three years.

Leaders at Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row said the man had been living on the sidewalk outside their shelter for six to eight months.

Though multiple videos and two officer-worn cameras captured the shooting, exactly what happened is unclear.

Video showed the man reaching toward a rookie officer's waistband, police Chief Charlie Beck said. The officer's gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon, the chief said.

Beck said the officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

The four officers are on paid leave, which is customary in such shootings.

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