This “standing headline” is becoming so ubiquitous it ought to be formally recognized as an internet meme.

A robbery suspect, identified in the CNN report simply as “Africa” or “Brother Africa” was being arrested by four LAPD officers yesterday in Los Angeles.  He was violently non-compliant, as evidence by the video below and by eye witness testimony.  Witness Yolanda Young told local news reporters from KTLA:

He was down, but then he jumped up, like he was juiced up, and then he started swinging at the police and they were fighting him back.

[NOTE: Video above was replaced on 3/3/315 with a version that was not “fuzzed-out,” as was original video.]

As seen in the video, further escalating the situation, at one point during the struggle one of the arresting officers manages to drop his side-handle baton. It is promptly snatched up by a bystander on the fringes of the struggle, who appears to be looking for an opportunity to use it to strike at the officers. (A baton strike to the head can easily cause death or serious bodily injury, and thus constitutes deadly force.)

A pair of cops tackle this armed bystander and begin to place her (?) under arrest, when the ongoing struggle with “Brother Africa” devolves into a handful of fired shots.

Immediately bystanders begin to shriek in disbelieving outrage, as if it were utterly incomprehensible how such a struggle could arrive at such an outcome.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reports that the suspect was shot only after he tried to grab one of the officer’s sidearms–and nearly succeeded in doing so.  In support of the arresting officers’ statements to this effect Beck showed photos of the target officer’s pistol. The CNN report does not show the photo, but describes it as follows:

The slide is partially engaged, and the magazine is dislodged.

Based on my experience this is entirely consistent with a grabbing attempt of a semi-automatic handgun, in which the slide is partially forced backwards and then fails to fully seat into battery–it “jams”.  The dislodged magazine may have been an attempt by the officer to eject his magazine in response to the pistol grab.

Many models of semi-automatic pistols have a “magazine safety” that prevents the gun from firing even a round in the chamber if the magazine is not fully seated in the gun. Many police are trained to disable the gun by removing the magazine if they fear they are about to lose possession of the pistol to an assailant.

As we’ve come to expect, purported witnesses were quick to emerge to contest the police narrative, much as at Ferguson. A bystander who took video of the shooting, Anthony Blackburn, told reporters that he did not see the suspect reach for the officers’ gun.

Naturally, the fact that a single person from one perspective did not see the gun grab does not mean it did not happen–it merely means he did not see it.

Tellingly, when faced with the choice of embedding either the police narrative or that of Anthony Blackburn into their headline, the CNN story goes with the racially inflammatory version: “Witness who took video: Man killed by LAPD didn’t reach for officer’s gun.”

I suppose it never occurred to CNN to go with the arguably better-supported headline “Police evidence suggests man killed reached for officers’ gun.”

This is my shocked face.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.