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LAPD chief says omission in news release was a mistake

The fact that a man shot by officers was handcuffed at the time should have been mentioned, Chief Charlie Beck says. He blames overzealousness in protecting the investigation.

November 01, 2012|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times
  • "We got it wrong," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says of the omission of information from a news release.
"We got it wrong," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says of the omission… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that he and other police officials erred when they opted not to tell the public that a man shot by police had been handcuffed at the time.

"We should have included it," he said in an interview. "We got it wrong."

The mea culpa came after a Times report was published on the shooting and the department's decision not to include the detail of the handcuffs in a news release.

LAPD was wrong to omit shooting details, chief says

In the incident, officers were in the process of frisking and handcuffing several men they had stopped for questioning, when one of them bolted. As the officers pursued him, the other men fled as well. One suspect, who had been handcuffed with his hands behind his back, attempted to hide under an SUV.

Other officers arriving on the scene found the man and pulled him out from beneath the vehicle by his ankles. Saying they saw something metallic in his hands that they believed was a gun, the officers opened fire. The man, who was lying on his stomach, was hit once in the lower back and wounded critically. Police have not released the man's identity.

Police officials speculated that the flash of metal the officers said they saw was the handcuffs, but cautioned that the investigation into the shooting was in its early stages. The inquiry will focus in part on what information the initial officers relayed about the situation when they radioed for backup. Specifically, investigators will try to determine if the responding officers had been told that some of the escaped men had been handcuffed.

Two weeks after the shooting, the LAPD posted a news release on its website about the incident that neglected to mentioned that the shooting victim had been handcuffed. LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith acknowledged the handcuffs after The Times raised inquired about the matter.

Smith and Beck initially defended the decision, saying the department had to be careful not to taint the investigation into the shooting by releasing details that could influence witnesses.

Beck stood by the idea Thursday that the department needs to be cautious about what details it publishes about officer shootings, but said in this case the information about the handcuffs should have been included.

"This occurred not because we were trying to hide facts," Beck wrote in a letter to The Times. "It occurred because we were overzealous in protecting the purity of the criminal and administrative investigations. We went too far."

The incident marked the second time in recent months that the LAPD had withheld important and potentially unfavorable information from the public in cases involving serious uses of force by officers.

In July, the department released an account of an incident in which a woman died after several officers forced her into the back seat of a police car. The news release made no mention of the fact that a female officer was under investigation for berating the woman and stomping on her genitals during the encounter. Police officials confirmed those details after The Times inquired about the case.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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