Los Angeles police kill man in struggle captured on video 

click to enlarge Skid Row residents start their morning, Monday, March 2, 2015, on a street near where a man was shot and killed by police on Sunday, in downtown Los Angeles. Three Los Angeles police officers shot and killed the man as they wrestled with him on the ground, a confrontation captured on video that millions have viewed online. Authorities say the man was shot after grabbing for an officer's gun. - AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL
  • AP Photo/Richard Vogel
  • Skid Row residents start their morning, Monday, March 2, 2015, on a street near where a man was shot and killed by police on Sunday, in downtown Los Angeles. Three Los Angeles police officers shot and killed the man as they wrestled with him on the ground, a confrontation captured on video that millions have viewed online. Authorities say the man was shot after grabbing for an officer's gun.

Three Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a man on the city's Skid Row as they wrestled with him on the ground, a confrontation captured on video that millions viewed online. Authorities say the man was shot after grabbing for an officer's gun.

After the shooting, police are seen drawing their batons and warning an angry crowd to step back. Several people shouted at the officers, accusing them of going too far.

Sunday's violence had echoes of the August police shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, whose death in a struggle with LA officers brought demonstrations in the city. Ford was unarmed. Police said he was shot after reaching for an officer's gun.

Witnesses told the Los Angeles Times that the man was known on the street as "Africa," but his race was unclear from the video, which showed most of the figures in shadow.

The witnesses said the man had been on Skid Row for four or five months, living amid the tents, sleeping bags and trash that are common in the area where many of the city's homeless stay.

The three officers, one of whom is a sergeant, shot the man as they struggled on the ground for control of the weapon, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. The officers had been responding to a report of a robbery, and a stun gun proved ineffective, he said.

Police planned to use the video in their investigation, trying to amplify its sound and pictures to figure out exactly what happened, Smith said.

"The video is disturbing," Smith said late Sunday at a briefing with reporters. "It's disturbing any time anyone loses their life. It's a tragedy."

At least one of the officers was also wearing a body camera, Smith said.

On the video — which drew millions of views — six officers are at the scene. They begin wrestling with the man as he takes swings at them.

Two of the officers break away to subdue and handcuff a woman who had picked up one of their dropped batons.

The struggle becomes increasingly blurry and distant, but shouting can be heard, followed by five apparent gunshots.

Police did not release the man's name or give any other identifying details, and Smith said he did not know whether the man was homeless.

One witness, Jose Gil, 38, told the Times he saw the man swinging at police then heard one of them shout, "He's got my gun!" before the shots were fired.

Dennis Horne, 29, said the man had been fighting with someone else in his tent before officers arrived.

"It's sad," Horne said. "There's no justification to take somebody's life."

Tents and cardboard shelters cover the sidewalks of Skid Row, the downtown neighborhood where an estimated 1,700 homeless people live. Many of them struggle with mental illness and addiction.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said the independent inspector general and the district attorney had all begun investigating.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, head of the activist group Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, on Monday asked Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a special investigator to examine the killing. He also called on the city Police Commission to hold a special hearing on use of force by officers in Skid Row encounters.

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