Los Angeles police fatally shot a man on Hollywood boulevard on Thursday, causing chaos at a busy tourist strip and prompting a state investigation into the use of deadly force.
LAPD officials said officers had received 911 calls about 11.20am of a “man armed with a gun”, but police photos from the scene showed an object that appeared to be a lighter.
The killing occurred on Hollywood boulevard near Highland avenue along the Walk of Fame and near a number of popular tourist destinations. The department said that when officers arrived, they “saw a male matching the description armed with a handgun”. Police have not said how many officers fired their weapons or how many bullets hit the man, but alleged that a “replica handgun” was recovered at the scene.
Police later, however, released a photo of a bronze and silver object lying on the ground that appeared to be a novelty lighter. The man, who may have been in his 40s or 50s, has not yet been identified. He died at a hospital after the shooting, authorities said.
LAPD also said that a woman who was nearby was “transported to a local hospital for an injury sustained during the incident”, but have not shared further details. An LAPD spokesman on Friday declined to tell the Guardian how the woman was injured or whether she was hit by gunfire, and had no update to share about her injuries.
A spokesman also declined to identify the object the man may have been holding or confirm whether it was a lighter. The object had some resemblance to the shape of a gun, but did not look like the hyper-realistic gun-shaped lighters available for sale.
Police also released photos of a small knife, but have not provided any further details about it. Additional blurry photos from body-camera footage showed the man standing outside a McDonald’s with one arm up and holding something, but the object is not clear. Police have not yet released any footage, and a spokesman said footage would be disclosed within 45 days.
“People started scrambling, and there’s kids crying and moms trying to get out of there and tourists confused,” a local witness told the LA Times, adding, “It happened so fast. We were just in shock, like, ‘Whoa, what just happened here?’”
The California attorney general, Rob Bonta, announced Friday morning that his office had launched an investigation into the killing under new legislation requiring state reviews of police killings of unarmed civilians. The law, AB1506, went into effect in July and aims to provide more independent investigations of killings by police, which traditionally are reviewed by local district attorneys with close ties to the police departments.
Bonta, who was appointed attorney general earlier this year and co-authored AB1506, said Friday that his office would “investigate and review [the shooting] for potential criminal liability”. This is his office’s first investigation under the new law, a spokesperson said.
Within hours of the killing, LA advocates were already raising questions about the merits of using deadly force on a man who was not holding a gun. Some have also criticized the department for initially suggesting the man was holding a firearm, and only later revealing the photo that appeared to show a lighter.
A recent LA Times report prompted scrutiny of LAPD’s pattern of fatally shooting unstable people holding objects that are not guns. While there have been some recent cases in which LA officers were found to violate policy in fatal shootings, police in the region almost never face criminal charges for on-duty killings.
Los Angeles police fatally shoot man on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame