Crime & Justice

Skid Row police shooting: ICE detained, released suspect after he served prison time

About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC
About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC
About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
About 150 people protest fatal Skid Row LAPD shooting outside police headquarters Tuesday.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Listen to story

Extra Audio:
Download this story 0MB

As police continued their investigation Tuesday into the fatal police shooting of a homeless man in L.A.'s Skid Row, protesters marched on Los Angeles Police headquarters. Meanwhile, questions about the victim's background and identity surfaced as details of his involvement in a botched bank robbery came to light and the L.A. French Consulate denied he was a French citizen.  


Update 7:45 p.m.: ICE detained, released victim in Skid Row shooting after he served prison time

In another strange twist in the backstory to the homeless man who was shot dead by police on Sunday, KPCC has found evidence the man, who used the last name Robinet, had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration officials after serving time in prison for armed robbery.

A U.S. District Court probation document from September 2013 reads:

 “Charley Saturmin Robinet is currently in immigration custody and is scheduled to be released to the community on or about September 23, 2013. Mr. Robinet does not have a release address and has no other options for shelter.” It was recommended that he be sent to a residential reentry center program “for a period not to exceed 180 days.”

Typically, criminals convicted of serious crimes are deported. Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said federal officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement made a discretionary call to release Robinet.

“It’s surprising that I.C.E. let him go to a halfway house, Hing said. “This is pretty much I.C.E.’s responsibility, then, not the responsibility of state officials — if they once had him in custody, and then they let him go to a halfway house.”

Hing said officials either made a judgment that Robinet was no longer a danger to the public, or they couldn't obtain necessary travel documents for deportation. 

Officials from I.C.E. and the U.S. Probation office that processed Robinet’s release did not return KPCC’s calls for comment.

Update 5:01 p.m.: French Consulate: Suspect killed in police shooting was not French national; 'stole identity' of Frenchman

The man who was shot and killed by police in Skid Row on Sunday was not a French national, the French Consulate in Los Angeles has told KPCC. 

The suspect, who went by the name Charley Saturmin Robinet, apparently stole that name from a French national, press attaché Astrid le Moine said. 

“He was not a French citizen,” le Moine said. “We don’t know where he is from.”

Le Moine said they made the discovery after doing some research on Robinet. 

“It’s a case of stolen identity,” le Moine said.

The consulate could not say when Robinet's identity had been compromised. 

— Frank Stoltze, KPCC

Update 4:13 p.m.: More on suspect's robbery case in 2000 

The suspect who was fatally shot on Skid Row by LAPD officers had confessed to attempting to rob a Wells Fargo bank in order to pay for acting lessons in 2000, former assistant U.S. attorney Cheryl O’Connor told KPCC. 

The man who went by the name Charley Saturmin Robinet and another man entered the lobby of a bank in Thousand Oaks with guns, demanding money. When one of the tellers didn’t act fast enough, Robinet pistol-whipped him. The teller needed five or six stitches for his injuries, O’Connor said. 

As the two suspects fled the scene, they joined another man in a getaway car and led the Ventura County police in a high-speed chase. After their car sustained damage from spike strips laid down by police, the men fled on foot. 

Photos from the scene published in a local newspaper show money spilling out of the car, Steve Cron, a Santa Monica Criminal defense attorney who represented Robinet, told KPCC.

Tweet: VC Star

“It was a very tough case,” he said. The other defendants pleaded guilty, but Robinet demanded a trial, Cron said. During the trial, he repudiated his recorded confession to the robbery. 

— KPCC Staff

Update 1:12 p.m.: Man killed in Skid Row police shooting was convicted bank robber

The homeless man fatally shot by police on Skid Row earlier this week had been released from a halfway house last year after serving 13 years in federal prison for a bank robbery, according to police and court records.

Two law enforcement sources identified the man to KPCC as Charley Saturmin Robinet, though they spoke on condition of anonymity because next of kin have not yet been notified. French officials have since said that name appears to have been used falsely. 

Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, confirmed to KPCC that Robinet was released from custody on June 24, 2013.

Court documents show that, in September of 2013, Robinet's probation officer recommended he be sent to a halfway house because he lacked an address and had "no other options for shelter" upon release.

Ross told KPCC Robinet left the halfway house on May 24, 2014, and ultimately ended up sleeping in a tent outside Union Mission on San Pedro Street, where he died over the weekend.

His arrest and subsequent conviction stem from a bank robbery in Thousand Oaks, for which he was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the convictions of Robinet and two other men in August 2000:

Charley Saturmin Robinet, 24, of Hollywood, was one of two men sentenced Monday for the takeover robbery of the Wells Fargo Bank in Thousand Oaks.


Authorities said that when employees were slow in handing over the money, Robinet pistol-whipped one of the tellers. The men then led police on a chase through Ventura, where they were arrested after striking a police car and running over a spike strip on the Ventura Freeway.

In that story, the Times identified Robinet as a "French national" who robbed the bank to cover the cost of his acting classes.

KPCC has not been able to independently confirm that information. But court documents indicate that Robinet was "in immigration custody" before being released to the halfway house.

Robinet was shot and killed after a confrontation with police in which officers claimed he reached for one of their weapons. Police have also said they attempted to stun him first, but a Taser proved ineffective.

— KPCC staff

Update 9:35 a.m.: Protesters march to LAPD headquarters

After marching from Skid Row to LAPD headquarters, protesters set down their signs and crowded into a previously scheduled police commission meeting.

The rally Tuesday morning included a moment of silence, and participant Patrisse Cullors declared the shooting site "sacred ground."

Twitter: 150 protest fatal Skid Row

A memorial sprung up Monday where the shooting occurred. White roses were placed over a tent, blankets and clothing belonging to the man known as "Africa."

The shooting was captured on video, but exactly what happened remains unclear.

“Everybody saw what happened on television,” Darian James told the five civilian members of the panel that oversees the department. “There is no reason in the world five cops can’t take that man.”

James then turned to Chief Charlie Beck.  “He was unarmed and you murdered him.”

“Mental health experts must be the first responders on Skid Row – not police,” said Steve Diaz, an activist with the LA Community Action Network. He said Skid Row is “over-policed.”

“We need housing,” he added. Another man loudly blew a whistle inside the meeting. Officers started to pull him away from the microphone, but they backed off and allowed him his two minutes of comment, and whistleblowing.

There were many pleas for the LAPD and city to provide resources to homeless people and to prevent violent confrontations. “You’ve got to do better,” said longtime Skid Row activist General Jeff Page.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff acknowledged the need for more resources on Skid Row. “Let’s use this tragedy to deal with homelessness and mental health,” he said. “We need massive amounts of additional funds” for Skid Row.”

But Soboroff’s call for patience in the shooting investigation was met with contempt.

“How dare this commission caution us against a rush to judgment?” said Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now.

“This is really a dog and pony show,” said Reverend Lewis Logan of Bethel AME Church in South LA.

— AP with Frank Stoltze, KPCC

This story has been updated. 

Probation petition for Charley Saturmin Robinet