The Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old Black woman in the aftermath of a pharmacy robbery in August 2015 in the Crenshaw district acted within department policy, the city Police Commission ruled Tuesday.
The decision immediately sparked shouts of protest from the audience, which was packed with activists and some Black Lives Matter members calling for the officer to be disciplined or fired. Some in the crowd shouted “Shame on you” as board members adjourned their meeting and walked from the room.
Outside the Police Administration Building, hundreds of angered activists chanted “Fire Charlie Beck! Remove Matt Johnson!” referring to the Los Angeles Police Department chief and the president of the Police Commission.
The commission, after meeting in closed session for more than an hour, announced that it found fault with some of the tactics used by officers in the Aug. 12, 2015, shooting of Redel Jones, but found that Officer Brett Ramirez’s shooting of the woman did not violate LAPD policy.
Ramirez has been with the department for about four years.
Jones was shot in the 4100 block of Marlton Avenue after police responded to a call of a pharmacy robbery in the 3700 block of Santa Rosalia Drive.
Police said officers saw a woman matching the description of the suspect in an alley west of Marlton Avenue, and the shooting occurred when officers tried to detain her. Police said the woman was armed with a knife, and that a knife was recovered at the scene.
Jones’ husband, Marcus Vaughn, was among those attending Tuesday’s commission meeting, telling the panel in an emotional statement, “You all stole her from me.” After the commission’s decision was announced, Vaughn was
seen wiping away tears amid a crowd of supporters outside the headquarters building. Some protesters left the Police Administration Building and began gathering on the east steps of City Hall in an impromptu sit-in.
The meeting got off to a rocky start, after most of the protesters were not allowed in, and during Police Chief Charlie Beck’s report, he started off by recognizing the five Dallas Police officers who were killed last week. Beck called out their names, but members of the audience were upset that he did not mention the names of the two Black men who were killed by law-enforcement officers, or any of the names of the people who were killed by LAPD officers over the past year.
One of those names was Wakiesha Wilson, who authorities said committed suicide in a Los Angeles Jail this past March. Her family has questioned the events surrounding her death.
During Beck’s address, Sheila Hines, an aunt of Wilson, interrupted him, yelling out, “What about my niece, what about my niece Wakiesha Wilson.”
At that point Matthew Johnson, the president of the commission, warned the Hines that she needed to wait her turn to speak or that she would be forced to leave the meeting. The woman continued, and was warned again. After Hines continued to speak out of turn, Johnson instructed LAPD officers to escort her out. This caused a major commotion inside the meeting, which took several minutes to resolve as Hines left.
As Hines left the room, many people demanded Beck to say the names of the people who were killed by the police.
With order restored, Beck said police shootings this year are down 30 percent compared to last year, saying it’s an indication that officers are “doing a better job of regulating themselves.”
During the public-comment period, one critic disparaged a much-publicized meeting last week between Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game—billed as an effort to open a dialogue between police and the Black community.
Tensions between police and the Black community have been running high following two fatal shootings by police in the past week—of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn.
The tensions escalated into last week’s sniper shootings during a protest in Dallas, killing five police officers.
Police Commission President Matt Johnson called for “meaningful discussions” with the community.
“Whether we’re talking about Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas or right here in Los Angeles, the actions of a few have caused so much pain and anger in communities across America,” Johnson said. “It is my hope that
meaningful dialogue can occur with all of our communities so we can continue to improve the relationship between our police officers and our residents.”
Garcetti and Beck, along with mayors and police chiefs from across the country, are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the issue of violence involving police.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday the meeting was still being organized, but in addition to law enforcement officials it will include “activists, civil rights leaders, local political leaders from the across the country.” He said the meeting will be an effort “to try to further the dialogue and the identification of specific solutions to repairing the bonds of trust that have frayed in so many communities between law enforcement officials and the citizens that they’re sworn to serve and protect.”