When Shameka Smith called the Los Angeles Police Department one afternoon last week to report that her estranged husband had violated a restraining order by coming to her apartment and turned violent, she said several times that he hadn’t taken his medication to treat schizophrenia. taken.
It was precisely for calls like this that the LAPD created its Mental Evaluation Unit years ago, which pairs officers with county social workers trained to de-escalate standoffs involving people believed to be mentally ill. But when a group of police officers dispatched to the apartment building in the city’s Rampart neighborhood huddled outside to devise a plan, no one suggested calling the unit.
Instead, they confronted 45-year-old Takar Smith on their own, going back and forth with the incoherent man ending when two officers opened fire, killing Smith as he knelt on the kitchen floor holding a knife.
On Wednesday, police chief Michel Moore took the unusual step of publicly questioning the officers’ handling of the incident before an investigation was launched, indicating he believed they should have tried to recruit a team from the mental health department. call. He added that he was also concerned about the “initial actions” officers took when Smith’s wife first went to an LAPD station to seek help.
At a press conference, Moore said he was “concerned about the communications operator who obtained information from this victim … trouble.”
Moore made his remarks as the department released video footage of Smith’s murder captured by officers-worn cameras, as well as videos of two other deadly encounters that happened last week.
In one, police shot and killed a man in South LA who had been throwing objects at passing cars and, according to an LAPD report, was holding a sharp piece of metal when confronted by police. In the other incident, a man suspected of causing a car accident in Venice while driving under the influence died several hours after an officer stunned him repeatedly with a taser.
The death of the man in the car accident, Keenan Anderson, attracted a lot of attention when Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter organization, announced that he was her cousin and accused the officers of using unnecessary force that made him came to life.
Under department rules, the LAPD releases videos of police shootings within 45 days of an incident. But as recent incidents gained more and more attention, Moore decided to act more quickly.
Video of Smith’s murder included an audio of the call his wife made to a non-emergency number given to her by an officer at the LAPD’s Rampart station. In it, she asked the police for help to remove her husband from her apartment, saying she had a restraining order against him, that he had been violent towards her in the past, and that he had thrown things in the apartment.
She warned that he had threatened to fight the police if called and that there was a knife in the kitchen. But she also shared that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was not taking his meds.
“He’s acting crazy and he has to take medication because he has a mental illness,” she said.
The police arrived and tried to convince Takar Smith to go with them, the video shows. When he refused, they followed him to the apartment. After about 15 minutes of back and forth, during which Smith was verbally belligerent and often sounded incoherent, officers cornered him in the kitchen. They hit him with Tasers after he picked up the knife, causing him to drop the knife, body camera footage shows. When he picked it up again and raised it to his knees, the officers opened fire.
Moore said seven shots were fired in total: two by one officer and five by another.
After the videos were released, Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement saying she had “serious concerns about the deeply disturbing tapes.”
“Full investigations are underway and I promise that the city’s investigations into these deaths will be transparent and reflect Los Angeles’ values,” the statement said. “I will ensure that the city’s investigations lead only to truth and accountability. In addition, the officers involved should be placed on immediate leave.”
Times staff writers Richard Winton and David Zahniser and the The Bharat Express News contributed to this report.