Crime & Justice

Los Feliz police shooting: Unarmed man ID'd; Officer was transfer from General Services Department

An officer-involved shooting occurred Friday in Los Feliz.
An officer-involved shooting occurred Friday in Los Feliz.
Brian Frank/KPCC file photo

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The Los Angeles Police Department officer who critically wounded an unarmed man Friday evening during rush hour traffic on Los Feliz Boulevard previously worked as an officer for the city’s General Services Department, police said. In that capacity, he mostly guarded city facilities and did little street patrol.

The officer, whom the LAPD has yet to identify, was assigned to the department’s Security Services Division, which has responsibilities for security at city facilities. The officer was assigned with his partner to patrol Griffith Park, which sits above Los Feliz Boulevard.

In 2012, about 40 officers with General Services transferred to the LAPD as part of an effort to integrate the city’s law enforcement agencies. The move also helped then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa achieve his promise to build the LAPD to 10,000 officers.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said the officers who transferred into the department were vetted and provided extra training. The officer did not attend the LAPD's full academy, but would have attended one of California's 37 other academies.

Those academies require a minimum of 664 hours of training and are "very thorough," said Charles Sandoval, who works with the state's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

“We made sure that everybody that came over through that transition period had the skills," said Smith. "We made sure they had the ability, passed the background, and successfully completed the training before they became full fledged LAPD officers."

Smith said each officer received six weeks of extra classroom training and three months of extra field training before they were sworn as LAPD officers. But he also said investigators will look at whether the officer had received proper training.

“Of course we’ll look at all that,” he said.

The officer shot the man — identified as 48-year-old Walter DeLeon — in the head after the man flagged down the officer's patrol car and then pointed his arms at the officers. One of DeLeon's arms was covered with “some type of piece of cloth,” according to Smith. He said it was not a towel, as reported earlier.

It is unclear why DeLeon waved for the officers to stop. Smith said the man has been unable to speak with detectives because of his injuries.

“He did not have an injury on his hand. That was not the reason he had a cloth at hand,” he said. The officer believed he was armed, and ordered him to "drop the gun," Smith said. 

There was no gun.

DeLeon moved toward officers in an “aggressive fashion” and refused orders to drop his hands before the officer opened fire, Smith said. He did not say how many times the officer fired.

DeLeon remains in critical condition.

Smith said the officers did not have a dashboard camera in their car or body cameras. He said the LAPD's Force Investigation Division, the Inspector General and the District Attorney are investigating the incident.

“Anytime there is an officer-involved shooting especially when someone doesn’t have a weapon, everyone takes a long look,” Smith said.

Smith acknowledged police are under increased scrutiny after a series of shootings involving unarmed men in Los Angeles, Missouri, South Carolina, New York and elsewhere.

“I think a year ago, you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Smith said of a reporter's questions.

Update June 22nd, 5:12 pm: Unarmed man shot by LAPD approached 'in aggressive manner'

An unarmed man who was shot and critically wounded by Los Angeles police had approached officers aggressively and pointed at them with his hands clasped underneath a gray cloth, police said Monday.

The two uniformed officers were driving in stop-and-go traffic at about 6:30 p.m. Friday when they saw a man on the sidewalk walk toward them in an aggressive manner, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith. The man, identified by police as Walter DeLeon, pointed at them with his hands clasped together and wrapped in a gray cloth. The officers left their patrol car and ordered him to drop a gun they believe he had.

One of the officers shot DeLeon, 48, when he didn't comply, police said.

DeLeon was in critical condition at a hospital.

His son, William DeLeon, told the Los Angeles Times that his father regularly walks with a rag because he sweats a lot. He said he was shocked when he learned police shot his father.

"I didn't understand why, because I know my dad wouldn't do anything to provoke it," he told the Times.

He said he and his family were at his father's bedside most of Monday and that he hadn't yet awoken.

Witnesses of the shooting have come forward, but the police car wasn't equipped with a dashcam and the officers weren't wearing body cameras, Smith said.

Preliminary information indicated that Walter DeLeon might have said something to officers to attract their attention, but Smith said it was too early in the investigation to know for sure.

The officers involved are on paid leave pending an investigation, which is standard operating procedure.

This story has been updated.