Los Angeles, CA – Outraged protesters staged a rally to denounce the fatal officer-involved shooting of a man who pointed what appeared to be a handgun at a Los Angeles police sergeant.
Investigators later determined that the item was a bicycle part that closely resembled the appearance of an actual firearm, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I don’t care if he had a hot dog that looked like a gun – it wasn’t a gun!” Los Angeles Community Action Network organizer General Dogon told the paper. “We’ve got to make [the police] accountable.”
The incident began at approximately 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 11, when the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) received a report of a man with a gun near South Venice Boulevard and South Sepulveda Boulevard, the LAPD said in a press release.
The suspect, later identified as 31-year-old Victor Valencia, was walking along Venice Boulevard near a homeless encampment at the 405 Freeway overpass when he was spotted by LAPD Sergeant Colin Langsdale, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Sgt. Langsdale is a Pacific Patrol Division field supervisor, according to the Los Angeles Times.
When the sergeant got out of his patrol vehicle to make contact with Valencia, the suspect suddenly pointed at him with what Sgt. Langsdale believed was a firearm.
A witness later told investigators that he also believed that the object the suspect was pointing at the sergeant was a gun.
Sgt. Langsdale opened fire, striking Valencia an unknown number of times, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He was still holding the suspected firearm after he collapsed to the ground.
“A bicycle part with a physical makeup very similar to a handgun was located at the scene,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said.
Valencia was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he died of his wounds.
No officers or bystanders were injured during the altercation, the LAPD said in the press release.
Although records from the coroner’s office indicated Valencia was not homeless at the time of the shooting, protesters declared that he was, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The group, which gathered at the intersection where the shooting occurred to protest the incident on Jan. 17, insisted that members of the nearby homeless encampment had told Valencia to leave because of his mental health issues.
“Victor Valencia was houseless and apparently struggled with mental health issues,” White People 4 Black Lives organizer Adam Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “Should being poor and sick in Los Angeles be a death sentence?”
Protesters demanded that police release bodycam footage, 911 transcripts, and a photo of the bicycle part.
The photo was released several hours after the demonstration, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Smith alleged that the more law enforcement officers respond to reports involving homeless and mentally ill people, the greater the likelihood those people will be killed by officers.
“We continue to see LAPD as first responders to the struggles of poverty,” he declared. “We continue to see LAPD as first responders to struggles with mental health…And that increased enforcement and contact with the LAPD will continue to produce dire outcomes.”
The LAPD’s specialized Force Investigation Division is handling the ongoing investigation into the officer-involved shooting, which is also being overseen by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s Justice System Integrity Division and the Office of the Inspector General, according to the department.
Chief Moore, the Board of Police Commissioners, and the Office of the Inspector General will determine whether or not Sgt. Langsdale’s use of deadly force complied with the LAPD’s policies and procedures, and the district attorney’s office will determine whether or not the sergeant violated any criminal laws.