LAPD Chief Charlie Beck appeared at a community meeting at John Liechty Middle School in Westlake tonight, speaking and listening to a crowd that was often emotional in their condemnations of the LAPD. Beck addressed a few hundred residents who gathered and are angry after a fatal officer-involved shooting over the weekend, during which police say they were forced to shoot a man who was drunk and waving a knife. Some people in the auditorium yelled “Assassin!” in Spanish and booed Beck as soon as he took the podium. Others told the crowd to be quiet and listen.
The meeting comes after two days of protests in which demonstrators took to the streets, lit fires, and tossed debris at officers from turn-of-the-century walk-up apartments in the immigrant neighborhood.
The crowd called for transparency in the investigation of the shooting. Chief Beck promised a thorough and fair investigation but pleaded for peace on the streets as the investigation is being conducted.
Tuesday night, LAPD spokeswoman Officer Karen Rayner said 22 people had been arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse and unlawfully assembling during the protests at West Sixth Street and South Union Avenue. The crowd, estimated to be 100 Monday, was estimated to be 300 Tuesday.
Tuesday demonstrations started as community members gathered outside the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division building to protest the fatal shooting Sunday afternoon of Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan construction worker who police said was drunk when he threatened citizens and police with a knife. A police sign was torn down and objects were thrown at the station's windows.
At tonight's meeting, Beck read a statement that he said came from a witness. He said she crossed Sixth Street and saw the suspect, Jamines, arguing with another man and noticed that he was armed with a bloody knife. Jamines attempted to stab her and a pregnant woman with her. She ran and got a police officer, who was joined by two other officers; they told Jamines to put the knife down. The woman referred to the officers as “angels descended from Heaven.”
The crowd booed and vocally doubted Beck's account. Beck countered that they were official statements made to detectives. He was interrupted by yells of “Justice!” from the crowd.
Others in the crowd defended police, however. “Police officers are not monsters,” one woman said.
Beck offered an emotional appeal, recounting his history at Rampart, where he was a young officer more than three decades ago, he said. He said he helped people in the auditorium reclaim MacArthur Park more recently, a line met with applause.
A line formed to address city officials, including Beck; Nicole Bershon, police inspector general; City Councilman Ed Reyes; and Rob Saltzman of the L.A. Board of Police Commissioners.
“We are the eyes and the ears in monitoring the activities of the Los Angeles Police Department,” Saltzman said.
Before the meeting began, Yasenia Conde, 31, of Westlake, was highly critical of the LAPD, both for allowing crime to get out of control, and for excessive force. “The area just keeps getting worse, and it seems the LAPD has no regard for life. It seems like killing is the only way they know how to deal with stressful situations,” she said.