Los Angeles cops cleared in death of homeless black man

Ceola Waddell, 58, left, a homeless man who says he witnessed the police shooting on Skid Row, stands by a street side memorial for the victim in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Ceola Waddell, 58, left, a homeless man who says he witnessed the police shooting on Skid Row, stands by a street side memorial for the victim in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three Los Angeles police officers who fatally shot a black homeless man on Skid Rowlast year will not face criminal charges, according to a report released Thursday by the district attorney.

Prosecutors determined the shooting of Charly “Africa” Keunang was justified because he reached for a roookie officer’s gun and posed a deadly threat when he was shot five times on March 1, 2015.

“The abundance of physical and video evidence in this incident in fact establishes that the officers’ reasonable assessments of the threat posed by Keunang were as grave and imminent as the officers perceived them to be,” prosecutors wrote in a memo. “Keunang posed a high likelihood of killing officers and civilians at the very instant that he was shot.”

Officers were responding to reports that Keunang, 43, a Cameroon national, had threatened to kill another street person when they got in a scuffle with him.

Video of the shooting by a bystander was viewed millions of times online and prompted protests in the city and drew comparisons with the deaths of other black men killed by officers in the U.S.

“I just think that’s a travesty of justice and just a weak decision on behalf of law enforcement authorities,” said Joshua Piovia-Scott, the attorney representing Keunang’s family in a $20 million lawsuit. “Unfortunately, it’s something we’ve seen time and time again in this scourge of police killings of unarmed black men we’ve had in this country.”

The Police Commission had previously cleared officers of the shooting, though it found one officer’s tactics violated policy. It did not publicly reveal what policy was violated.

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