Los Angeles Police Department

LAPD Shut Down Community Over Police Shooting That Might Not Have Actually Happened

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Funny, I don't feel protected.
Credit: Scott Shackford

Almost a year ago, I reported from my own living room the experience of being trapped and surrounded by police in my community, not being allowed to leave for most of the day because somebody early in the morning shot at a couple of officers at the nearby station.

Now, after months of analysis, a police investigation says (pdf) it is unable to prove that anybody actually shot at the two officers. There was a man there and the two police officers shot at him, claiming the man opened fire on them and ran away while shooting at him. But the police are unable to prove that this man (whom they've never found) had a gun or shot at the police at all. The two officers involved shot more than 30 bullets between the two of them but didn't appear to hit anybody. It may have been for the best that they missed because despite saying in the investigation that this suspect fired a weapon at them, "A thorough examination of the officers' vehicle and the surrounding area revealed there were no impacts of other physical evidence to support that the Subject fired a weapon." There is some rough surveillance video of this man running across the street from the police station, but though they can see the guy extending an arm toward the officers, they cannot see what he's holding other than at one point, an unidentified object in his right hand.

The police car, an unmarked vehicle (the officers were in plain clothes, returning to the station from an assignment) did have damage to it, but it turned out one of the officers unintentionally fired off his gun four times inside the vehicle. Nothing was recovered to indicate they were actually ever shot at.

The report protects the identities of the officers involved, but the Los Angeles Times names them as Det. Humberto Tovar and Officer Bernardo Romero. Tovar has a history:

Tovar's history in the department added another level of intrigue to the case. He was fired in 2000 after his former partner, corrupt ex-officer Rafael Perez, accused Tovar of being complicit in a plan to plant drugs on a suspect. A judge later reinstated Tovar, finding that the firing had been improper.

Tovar was also accused of misconduct in a shooting. A corrupt officer told federal authorities of a conversation he had with Perez, who was the central figure in the department's Rampart scandal. Perez allegedly recounted a time when he had fired his gun. Tovar then allegedly fired his gun as well, not because he was in danger, but in an effort to make Perez's actions appear more justified, court records show.

Tovar fired 23 rounds during the incident, and the report indicates he shot at the suspect first. Romero is the one who responded by accidentally shooting into the roof of the police car.

Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Times notes, the police department is supporting the two men, saying their stories and statements by a witness corroborate the claim that the men believed they were being shot at. Even the review from the Board of Police Commissioners concludes that the potential use of deadly force was justified—even without any real proof they were ever shot at. That review recommend "Administrative Disapproval" for Tovar and a "Tactical Debrief" for Romero for the unintentional discharges and for some poor tactical decisions (apparently at one point Tovar had exited the car and was using it as cover to shoot at this subject while Romero was still in the car, creating a crossfire risk).

Over this incident, the police shut down an entire community. People were trapped in their homes by LAPD blockades at nearly every intersection. The blockade included dozens of restaurants and stores that lost untold amounts of money. Mid-city, where this occurred, is an interestingly diverse community, both ethnically and economically. Poor neighborhoods butt up right up against wealthier ones. I live in a poorer, working-class part of the community that is primarily Latino and African American. I wonder if there's any way to calculate how much was lost from the community's economy, both from lost business as well as lost wages. Sadly, this report doesn't analyze whether it was appropriate or even tactically useful for the department to respond to this incident as though it were the Boston Marathon bombing; though the failure of the police to catch this mystery guy speaks volumes.

Also, I guess I'll have to keep in mind that the police station within walking distance of my home employs a detective who had previously been fired for alleged participation in a plan to plant drugs on a suspect.

NEXT: If Pot Is Legal in Washington, Why Do These Medical Marijuana Users Face At Least 10 Years in Prison?

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  1. LA Strong!

  2. Sounds like there was an idiotic (accidental) discharge by one of the officers and they tried to cover it up.

  3. one of the officers unintentionally fired off his gun four times inside the vehicle

    Umm, WTFO? One neg discharge I can see, but 4?!?

    1. “Nelgigent” discharge. That’s the word I was looking for. But I think “idiotic” works too.

    2. “”””but it turned out one of the officers unintentionally fired off his gun four times inside the vehicle””””

      “””Romero is the one who responded by accidentally shooting into the roof of the police car.”””

      And they give these people guns? Sounds like we need to control government guns

    3. He fired his gun up in the air while going ‘AAAAAAAGH!”

  4. OK, one unintentional discharge of a firearm is inexcusable, but perhaps understandable.

    Two is really stretching it.

    But four? What the fuck was this guy doing?

    Relevant.

    1. His assault pistol was set to full auto…

  5. When I was living in Canoga Park the LAPD cordoned off two square blocks for half the day because they had cornered a car thief or something.

    1. Was that during your porn career?

      1. Nevermind. I was thinking of Reseda.

        1. Actually there are studios all over the Valley, from NoHo to West Hills. I even recognized the corner of Topanga Canyon & Ventura where I used to go grocery shopping in one video I’ve seen.

        2. They used to say that they filmed in Hermosa, but it might just be urban legend.

          1. Yeah I have a hard time believing anyone in Hermosa Beach had anything even resembling a job.

            1. Don’t think of it as work. Think of it as lives devoted to the spread of STDs, and then it makes sense.

              1. There oughta be a law covering dick coverings

          2. There’s a porn house on Blanche, near 29th. They got run out of town, though.

  6. Mark Steyn notes how police in other countries use firearms.

    Example: in 2011 German police fired a COUNTRY WIDE total of 85 bullets in pursuit of suspects. 49 of these rounds were warning shots; the 36 remaining shots wounded 15 people and killed 6.

    The whole thing is worth reading:

    http://www.steynonline.com/632…..ld-but-not

    1. In order to mitigate any risk, you have to identify and define the risk in the first place. Experience teaches that there is nothing routine about what we do once we hit the streets. Traffic stops are no exception. A traffic stop generally has two threat levels; you are either at risk or at high risk.

      A traffic stop is always an at-risk situation because you never know who is in the vehicle and what an occupant’s intentions are. You also don’t know what’s inside the vehicle and how it can be used against you…

      I am of the opinion that it’s safer to get the driver out of the vehicle and conduct your business off to the side. If you let the driver stay in his vehicle, he’s on his home turf. He is familiar with this environment and has all of his resources available to him. If you get him out of his vehicle, you change the driver’s environment and effectively deny him the use of anything in that vehicle that could hurt you…

      Come for the nut punches, stay for the pig paranoia.

      1. So some cops want you stay in the vehicle and think getting out is ground for shooting you since it obviously means you intend to attack them.

        Other cops want you to get out of the vehicle and think not getting out is grounds for shooting you since it obviously means you intend to attack them.

        1. Yes, or the shit when six cops are pointing guns at you, and barking instructions which are contradictory.

          Cop 1: Freeze!
          Cop 2: Down on the Ground!

          Then whichever cop you choose to obey, one of the others will fire, and then the rest will, emptying their magazines in a panic. Because they’re cowards.

    2. Solid stuff. I love the comparaison between policing standards in Northern Ireland during the troubles and in the US today.

  7. it turned out one of the officers unintentionally fired off his gun four times inside the vehicle.

    Uh…what? Unintentionally…four times?

    A corrupt officer told federal authorities of a conversation he had with Perez, who was the central figure in the department’s Rampart scandal

    The Rampart scandal was the inspiration for Vic and the Strike Team in The Shield. That ought to tell you something.

  8. it turned out one of the officers unintentionally fired off his gun four times inside the vehicle.

    No shit. And, if he had managed to kill his partner unintentionally, the “suspect’ would have been charged with murder.

    1. No, they would’ve just shot a random brown person, said he was the murderer, and called it a day.

  9. This “lockdown” mania that seems to be all too common these days is truly disgusting and worrisome.

    Why in the Hell do we put up with this crap from these people?

    Freak’n cops have become so easy to loathe. You will trust them at your peril.

    1. Because cops are in a special moral category. See when you wear a badge, your crimes become noble acts of heroism.

  10. Maybe they were drunk, and a bee flew in the window, and the cop was trying to shoot the bee before it stung him.

    1. Or they were just drunk. Or, more likely, high.

  11. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more and more of this lockdown shit. And I have a feeling most people aren’t going to do anything about it and will do as they’re told. We are well on our way to a full-blown police state.

  12. Jules: What the fuck’s happening, man? Ah, shit man!
    Vincent: Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.
    Jules: Why the fuck did you do that!
    Vincent: Well, I didn’t mean to do it, it was an accident!
    Jules: Four times? I’ve seen some crazy ass shit in my time…
    Vincent: Chill out, man. We’re LAPD. I told you it was an accident. You probably went over a bump or something.
    Jules: Yeah, that’s it. Car hit a motherfucking bump!

  13. Also, I guess I’ll have to keep in mind that the police station within walking distance of my home employs a detective who had previously been fired for alleged participation in a plan to plant drugs on a suspect.

    Probably best not to forget the officer who discharged his weapon inadvertently and with extreme prejudice either.

    The cunning of the fox is as deadly as the violence of the wolf.

  14. LA cops can shoot whoever the fuck they want. No shit they’re supported by their superiors and I’m sure whomever else is touched by the nefarious tentacles of the police union.

  15. I guess its not just NY cops that like to shoot off their guns at random passerby.

  16. Police suffer hallucination, (fortunately) nobody was injured.

    Another demonstration why only trained professionals should be allowed access to deadly weapons.

    If a civilian entity used the motto “To Protect and Serve”, and had the record of the LAPD, they would be sued into non-existence by the FTC.

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