LAPD Chief Beck recommends criminal charges in fatal Venice police shooting
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has recommended that prosecutors file criminal charges against an officer who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man in Venice last spring.
KPCC confirmed Beck's recommendation with LAPD media relations officers Ricardo Hernandez and Tony Im on Monday. Beck is scheduled to speak about the recommendation at Tuesday's police commission hearing.
The May 2015 shooting involved 29-year-old Brendon Glenn. Glenn was black, as is the officer who shot him, Clifford Proctor. The incident was caught by a surveillance camera.
The news comes on the heels of KPCC's in-depth investigation into police shootings in L.A. County, which found one in four people shot were unarmed and that prosecutors had not filed criminal charges against an officer in an on-duty shooting in 15 years.
Beck found the shooting by Proctor failed to meet the “reasonable officer” standard set down by the Supreme Court, said Deputy Chief Bill Murphy.
“Basically we don’t think it would be objectively reasonable, which means would an officer with similar training and experience at that scene have reacted that way?” he said.
Police officials say the answer is "no."
Proctor shot the unarmed Glenn twice in the back after a brief altercation.
After an investigation by the department’s Force Investigation Division, Beck concluded Glenn was on his stomach trying to push himself off of the ground – not grabbing for an officer’s gun – when Proctor shot him. The investigation included witness accounts, security camera footage and testimony from Proctor’s partner.
Proctor’s partner told investigators he did not know why Proctor shot.
Beck decided the shooting warranted criminal charges against the officer.
“I don’t believe the chief of police has ever said that before on a shooting,” said Murphy, who has been with the department for 28 years.
He said Beck spoke directly with District Attorney Jackie Lacey about the case – also an unusual move. It’s up to Lacey to decide whether to file criminal charges.
"As the county's top prosecutor, it is my ethical obligation to remain impartial until a thorough and independent investigation is completed by my office. Decisions on whether or not to file criminal charges will be based solely on the facts and the law — not on emotion, anger or external pressure," Lacey said in a statement.
The last time an L.A. officer was prosecuted for an on-duty shooting was 15 years ago.
Glenn's death, however, seemed unusual from the start. Beck was publicly concerned about the shooting almost immediately after it took place May 5.
“Anytime an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that,” he said during a news conference in May. “And I have not seen those circumstances.”
Murphy said as the investigation unfolded, “the facts seemed to get worse.” He did not elaborate.
The shooting sparked a public outcry in Venice, with more than 300 people turning out at a community meeting to express their anger. Some in Venice were elated at Beck's decision.
“I’m gratified to see that the police are actually calling out members of their own who may have committed a crime,” said Linda Lucks, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
“This person wasn’t armed,” she said. “He was allegedly belligerent, but that’s no reason to be killed.”
The reaction from others in Venice Beach was muted. Locals at the Venice Beach Skate Park were unaware of Beck's announcement that he was recommending charges for Proctor, who shot Glenn a couple hundred yards away — near the intersection of Windward and Pacific
The head of the labor union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers criticized the chief’s decision. He said Beck should have simply handed the case to prosecutors, rather than recommend criminal charges.
“The problem I have with the chief is the fact that he should let them do their job on own,” said Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
The attorney who represents Proctor has said his client was acting in self-defense during the altercation with Glenn.
"As the District Attorney reviews this case, my hope is that Chief Beck’s recommendation is considered with the utmost gravity. No one is above the law, and whenever use-of-force crosses the line, it is our obligation to make sure that principle is upheld," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
At the time of the shooting, Beck said he was "very concerned" about the incident.
Correction: An earlier version of this story was mistaken about officer Clifford Proctor's race. It also identified Glenn with an incorrect first name. KPCC regrets the errors.
This story has been updated.