California highway patrol officer fatally shoots man on Los Angeles freeway
A California highway patrol officer fatally shot a man on Sunday during a confrontation in the middle of a Los Angeles highway, state authorities said as they announced an investigation into the incident.
The Los Angeles county medical examiner’s office on Tuesday identified the man as Jesse Dominguez. The 34-year-old was walking along the westbound lanes of Interstate 105 in south Los Angeles county when the deadly encounter unfolded, the California highway patrol said.
A video captured by a passerby and posted online showed the officer on top of Dominguez as they fought on the pavement.
Authorities said an officer responding to the scene tried to convince Dominguez to leave the highway, but he refused and the pair began to struggle. During the altercation, the man allegedly grabbed the officer’s Taser and used it on him, the CHP said in a statement.
“Following the pedestrian’s use of the weapon against the officer, and in fear for his safety, the officer fired his service weapon.”
Dominguez was pronounced dead at a hospital. The CHP has not provided the officer’s name or additional details about the altercation, including how many shots were fired and whether the agency has a specific protocol to deal with someone wandering on the freeway.
The California department of justice is investigating the killing as required by state law, Rob Bonta, the state attorney general, said on Monday. The justice department has not yet provided additional details about the incident.
Dominguez was an aspiring actor who struggled with homelessness, mental health issues and substance use disorder, his family told the Los Angeles Times. Family members said they believed that Dominguez was in the midst of a mental health or drug crisis at the time of the incident.
“He was not trying to hurt anybody. Why did he have to use that type of force? After [the officer] had already discharged his firearm once, why did he stand up and then do it again and again and again?” his stepmother said to the newspaper.
His family said Dominguez had been staying at a sober living facility near the highway and that he began carrying a Taser for protection after threats from other residents, the Times reported.
The video begins with the officer on top of Dominguez as the two grapple in the middle of a closed stretch of freeway. It was not clear who took the original video.
As they struggle, a shot is fired and the officer suddenly jumps to his feet asDominguez goes limp on the pavement. The officer immediately fires at least four shots at the prone man, the video shows. For the remainder of the clip, the officer keeps his gun drawn while Dominguez lies motionless.
Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force expert who investigates police shootings for law enforcement agencies in California, cautioned against jumping to conclusions from the video alone.
Investigators will want to know why the officer approached the pedestrian without a partner or other backup nearby, Obayashi said. “They were able to close the freeway, so presumably there was law enforcement in the area,” he said.
Obayashi said the investigation will focus on whether Dominguez was armed and why the officer felt the need to shoot after standing up and disengaging from the fight.
“Was there a knife? Or a stun gun?” Obayashi said investigators will ask. “We don’t know what kind of threat this officer perceived.”
Highway patrol officers are not required to wear body cameras, but the agency uses in-car cameras.
The shots could be heard from a nearby Salvation Army shelter, where people told the LA Times that they regularly see people looking for bottles and cans walking on the freeway.
The state senator Steven Bradford, the assemblymember Mike A Gipson and the councilmember Tim McOsker, who represent the area where the shooting occurred, released a joint statement calling for transparency by the highway patrol.
Bradford said the video was “deeply disturbing” and appeared to show “unnecessary use of deadly force”.
“The community deserves answers. If the roles were reversed, people would be immediately calling for murder charges. I call on the California highway patrol and the department of justice to be transparent and for the community to be calm and patient during the investigation.”
Last year, law enforcement officers in the US killed an average of 1,176 people – more than three people a day, according to the non-profit research group Mapping Police Violence. California has seen a 29% drop since 2013, but the number of killings has remained high across the country despite efforts to combat police brutality.