Los Angeles, United States, Oct 4 – Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck defended the actions of officers involved in two fatal shootings of black men over the weekend that touched off protests and raised tensions.
Beck said one of the victims, 18-year-old Carnell Snell Jr, was carrying a handgun that he pointed at officers chasing him on foot after he exited a suspected stolen car and fled.
“At one point during their foot pursuit, which was 200 to 300 yards (meters) in total, they observed him remove a handgun from his waistband and hold it in his left hand,” Beck told reporters, displaying a photo of the weapon, which he said was fully loaded.
He added that Snell during the chase had turned toward the officers with the gun in his hand and was shot twice.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting touched off protests and further stoked a debate over police shootings of African Americans across the country.
Some 40 protesters pelted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home with eggs over the weekend and young men were seen spray-painting the windows of local businesses late Sunday.
A group of protesters also gathered on Monday at the Los Angeles police headquarters as Beck spoke to reporters, chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter.” Three of the protesters were arrested.
Beck said that the second man shot by police in south Los Angeles over the weekend was armed with a replica handgun with its orange tip covered so that it resembled a real gun. The man has yet to be identified by the coroner.
Officers from the gang squad had approached the man after receiving a call on Sunday about someone with a gun.
“As the officers approached the male to initiate a pedestrian stop, the male turned and pointed a handgun at the officers, at which time there was an officer-involved shooting,” Beck said.
He added that the officers were wearing body cameras and the video of the incident clearly refutes reports that the unidentified man was laying on the ground when shot.
The shootings took place amid heightened tensions nationwide over several high-profile police-related deaths that have sparked protests that have sometimes turned violent.
Seventeen people were arrested in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon over the weekend following protests over the police shooting last Tuesday of Alfred Olango, a Ugandan immigrant.
Olango’s sister had called police to report that he was acting erratically and walking in traffic.
Police officials said he was gunned down after he pulled an object that turned out to be a vaping device from his pocket and pointed it at an officer.