The shooting by police of an unarmed man in Long Beach over the weekend was captured in a shocking video (on the next page). The man is hit with gunfire multiple times as he descends stairs to a beach, as nearby restaurant patrons watch in horror. The cops' actions might have been a case of mistaking friendly fire for a shootout.
L.A. County Coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter identified the man as 36-year-old Jason Conoscenti, who was pronounced dead at a hospital Sunday. Coroner's investigators were called at 5:43 p.m. the day of the confrontation, he told us.
The man appears on video to have been shot in the back as he flees down stairs leading to the sand in Long Beach, but local police said in a statement that this is not the case:
Long Beach cops say they're the ones who opened fire from the side as the man got to the bottom of the stairs. They started shooting after mistaking bean bag rounds, shot from sheriff's officers behind the man, as hostile gunfire, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach department told us.
“The officers basically believed the suspect had been involved in a shootout with deputies prior to him running down the steps,” she said.
It appears the man ID'd as Conoscenti was unarmed, and at no point do authorities say he had a gun during the confrontation Sunday afternoon.
It all started at 2:47 p.m. when sheriff's deputies at the Target store in the 1600 block of South Alameda Street in Compton spotted a man struggling with security guards, deputies said. Security guards told the cops the suspect had committed a crime inside the store, according to a sheriff's statement.
The man allegedly pulled out a large pair of scissors and fled in a vehicle, deputies said, sparking a 15-minute car chase that Long Beach police say ended at Ocean Boulevard and 14th Place in their adjacent city.
This is where the stories differ slightly. Here's the version distributed by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department:
… The suspect exited the vehicle with a large wooden stick in hand, again refusing to comply with deputies' verbal commands.
In an attempt to safely detain the uncooperative suspect, deputies utilized less than lethal force by deploying a stunt bag. The stunt bag had no effect on the suspect, and he again ran from deputies. The suspect then encountered Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officers, who were assisting on the containment, and a LBPD officer-involved shooting occurred.
Here's the Long Beach Police Department's version:
At some point, the suspect exited his vehicle and deputies deployed a Stunbag in an attempt to detain the suspect
The Stunbag failed to stop the suspect and he ran from deputies down exterior stairs toward the public beach
Long Beach officers, who were located on the beach, east of the foot of the stairs with an obstructed view due to palm trees and shrubbery, heard gunshots from above and saw the suspect running toward the populated beach area
Believing the suspect had just engaged deputies in a gunfight, was still armed, and remained an immediate threat to law enforcement and the public gathered on the beach, the officers shouted verbal commands multiple times, as the suspect continued down the stairs
The suspect failed to surrender and after officers observed him reaching for his waist band, an officer involved shooting occurred
Smartphone video appears to have been shot from a beach-side restaurant.
One man is heard on video repeating the words, “Are you kidding me,” after the shooting. A woman wonders why police don't come to the man's aid sooner. “He's going to bleed to death,” one patron says.
Another video depicts the sounds of the confrontation but doesn't appear to have a visual on any actual shooting.
We asked if Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell, who's running for sheriff, would comment or hold a press conference, but we were told “that's what the news release was for.”
Sheriff's homicide detectives are investigating the fatal shooting. Witnesses were asked to call investigators at 323-890-5500.