LA Agrees to Pay $1.95 Million in Police Shooting Settlement

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles city officials agreed to pay $1.95 million to the family of a homeless man fatally shot by police on Skid Row, as part of a settlement agreement approved on Tuesday.

Charly “Africa” Keunang, 43, was shot in downtown Los Angeles in 2015 during a struggle with Los Angeles police officers. Video of the officers shooting the Cameroon native went viral after the incident as he was shot five times on the sidewalk during a Sunday afternoon.

The 4-minute video of the fatal encounter on March 1, 2015 was viewed millions of times amid a series of high-profile police shootings, but the Police Commission ruled that the two officers involved in Keunang’s shooting were justified in their actions.

Officers said they were responding to reports of a robbery in the area and said Keunang reached for an officer’s gun during a struggle.

In their 2016 wrongful death lawsuit, Keunang’s family said he was suffering from a mental illness and was unarmed when officers approached him. His mother, Helene Tchayou, said that eyewitnesses, phone and body camera footage from the LAPD showed the officers were the aggressors.

Tchayou said the officers created a panic after Keunang had crawled into his tent, dragging him out and punching and shocking him with a Taser stun gun before Sgt. Chand Syed and officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres shot him at close range.

Protests gathered at the curbside where Keunang slept in his tent.

This May, a federal jury found that two of the three officers were liable in using excessive force, which resulted in Keunang’s death.

On Tuesday, the LA City Council agreed in a 10-2 vote to pay the family $1.95 million.

Pasadena-based attorney Dan Stormer with Hadsell, Stormer and Renick, said the money is a limited substitute for the loss of a family member.

“Hopefully, the city will look at the payouts they are making because of officer misconduct and start to train and limit the violent conduct of the officers,” Stormer said in a phone interview with Courthouse News Service.

Stormer said the case could not have been won if it were not for the body camera footage and said it showed officers had the opportunity to deescalate the situation but became more aggressive and violent to Keunang.

“There was a desperate need to punish the cops involved, but the department decided not to,” Stormer said.

An email to the city attorney’s office for comment was not immediately responded to Tuesday afternoon.

 

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