LOS ANGELES (AP) — Video released Tuesday shows a black man killed by Los Angeles police was armed just before he was shot dead but the footage failed to capture him when officers say he twice turned toward them holding the loaded semi-automatic handgun.
The video shows the man identified by police as 18-year-old Carnell Snell crouching behind an SUV parked at a strip mall and pulling a handgun from the waistband of his sweatpants.
Snell then tucks the gun back into his waistband and runs around the corner of a strip mall as officers chase him. All then disappear from view because they were no longer within the range of the surveillance camera.
Snell’s shooting Saturday came amid heightened tensions over police actions involving black people and other minorities across the country. Snell was the third black man in five days killed in confrontations with Southern California police.
Police said the video — posted to the police department’s YouTube channel following pressure by protesters to release it — supports the account LAPD Chief Charlie Beck gave defending the shooting.
Beck said the video showed Snell had an opportunity to get rid of the gun but decided to keep it when he ran around a corner of the strip mall, disappearing from the footage that showed two officers running after him.
“Obviously if you’re not seeking confrontation why wouldn’t you just discard the weapon?” Beck said.
After Snell ran around the mall’s corner and out of range of the camera, he sprinted between two houses and turned toward officers while holding the gun, Beck said.
Officers fired three shots that missed Snell, who then climbed a fence and turned again toward the officers while holding the gun, Beck said. Police fired three more times, hitting Snell in the torso and knee.
The video showing the moments leading up to the shooting was made public just as Black Lives Matter organizers gathered Tuesday morning to protest Snell’s killing at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
Demonstrators at the civilian oversight board’s meeting continuously disrupted Beck and commission members with expletives and insults and ignored repeated requests to maintain order. One woman who said her son had been killed by police threatened to kill officers herself.
No arrests were made but the meeting was closed to the public after protesters refused to stop chanting, “Black lives, they matter here!”
Protester Melina Abdullah accused police of selectively releasing a portion of video of Snell’s shooting to “posthumously assassinate” his character.
“I don’t care if he had a gun,” she shouted. “His life matters.”
The release of the video marked the latest example of police departments that have decided to release footage of deadly confrontations amid public pressure.
In North Carolina, Charlotte police released snippets of recordings showing Keith Lamont Scott slowly backing out of an SUV on Sept. 20. Police fatally shot Scott after they say he refused commands to put down a gun.
In the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, police released a still frame showing 38-year-old Alfred Olango with his hands together at chest level and pointed at an officer directly in front of him.
Olango was fatally shot after he swiftly drew an object from his front pocket and pointed at the officer in a “shooting stance,” police said. The object turned out to be a 4-inch vape pen — an electronic cigarette device.
The LAPD typically releases video of police shootings only when ordered to do so by courts. Beck told reporters the Snell video was released in the interest of public safety and to correct misinformation.
“This is not done in any way to denigrate Mr. Snell,” he said.
Asked whether he thought the video would ease anger among protesters, he said “there are folks that will not believe any narrative” presented by police.
“I think that this video is not for them, the folks that are going to find holes in whatever I present to them,” he said. “Unless they were physically present they are not going to believe the police’s point of view on this.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who helped decide to release the video, said in a statement that doing so “contributes to transparency in a case that has raised many hard questions.”
The police pursuit of Snell began when officers tried to pull over a car he was in because it had temporary paper license plates that did not match the year of the vehicle. Beck has said that was a possible indication of a stolen car and something commonly seen in vehicles used in drive-by shootings.
Snell, seated in the car’s back seat, looked at officers and then ducked down “as if to hide from them” shortly before he jumped out of the car and ran, Beck said.
Los Angeles police last weekend also shot dead an unidentified Hispanic man. Beck said the man pointed a replica that looked like a real gun at police and officers opened fire because they feared for their lives.