LAPD union says three men escalated the incidents in which they were killed


The Los Angeles Police Protective League defended the actions of officers involved in three fatal incidents in January in a letter to the Los Angeles City Council on Thursday, Jan. 19, accusing the three men who were killed of escalating the situations.

Keenan Anderson, Takar Smith and Oscar Leon Sanchez died after encounters with LAPD in January, sparking criticism. Anderson, the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, went into cardiac arrest and died on Jan. 3 after Los Angeles police tased and shackled him following a traffic collision.

Police fatally shot Takar Smith on Jan. 2 and Oscar Leon Sanchez on Jan. 3.

The letter, sent from the board of directors of the union that represents LAPD officers, claimed the officers “engaged in de-escalation tactics that embodied the best practices of attempting to build rapport, calmly engaging the suspects to attempt to secure compliance and reduce the likelihood of any use of force.”

It continued: “The suspects escalated each of these incidents, not the responding officers.”

Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah are demanding that Los Angeles police officers no longer be dispatched to minor traffic incidents and are calling for additional actions following the cardiac arrest death of Keenan Anderson after he was tased repeatedly by police.

A preliminary toxicology-blood screen of Anderson’s blood samples tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, according to LAPD, but members of Black Lives Matter believe Anderson would still be alive had officers not used what BLM considered excessive force.

Mayor Karen Bass has also weighed in, saying, “Especially as a former health care professional, I am deeply troubled that mental health experts were not called in, even when there was a documented history of past mental health crisis.”

The death of Anderson, a 31-year-old English teacher, is one of three separate use-of-force incidents involving LAPD officers that left three men dead this month.

Police said Anderson appeared intoxicated and was suspected of causing a traffic collision at 3:40 p.m. on Jan. 3, and that witnesses said the man who caused the crash ran in the street and exhibited erratic behavior.

Anderson, the father of a 6-year-old, had been a teacher for more than eight years, the past six months at Digital Pioneers Academy, a charter school in Washington, D.C.

According to police, an officer talked to Anderson and requested backup for a DUI investigation. As the backup units began to arrive, Anderson suddenly bolted and officers chased him, the LAPD said.

He ran into the middle of Venice Boulevard, authorities said, and when the officers caught up to him Anderson allegedly resisted. Officers used a stun gun, bodyweight, firm grips and joint locks to control him, police said.

Shortly after Anderson’s arrest, Los Angeles Fire Department personnel gave him medical assistance and he was taken to a hospital in Santa Monica where he went into cardiac arrest and died, police said.

Police Chief Michel Moore said the investigation into Anderson’s death was ongoing, but noted that Anderson was Tasered six times during the struggle with officers, a number that raised concerns.

Before Anderson’s death, Los Angeles police fatally shot Takar Smith on Jan. 2 and Oscar Leon Sanchez on Jan. 3.

The letter issued by the police union on Thursday responded to concerns from some city officials that mental health professionals were not called to the scene. The union claimed that the LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit would not have been assigned as the first responders to any of the three incidents because none of the incidents was a “mental health” call for service, but “rather violations of the law that were addressed.”

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The letter issued by the police union also pushed back against L.A. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s proposal to provide an alternative to police to deal with traffic stops.

“If I run a red light, I should not be confronted by a government worker with a deadly weapon,” Harris-Dawson said at a briefing outside City Hall earlier this week, with family members of Anderson. “There’s just no reason for it. And there are far too many bodies in graves, far too many lost loved ones to demonstrate the point.”

The union’s letter said Harris-Dawson’s proposal was “conflating the enforcement of traffic laws with police responding to a traffic accident where a suspect was fleeing the accident” and wishing to “legalize fleeing a car crash and eliminating the police from enforcing traffic laws.”

LAPD is investigating all three use-of-force incidents.

(Linh Tat contributed to this article)

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