Los Angeles police released surveillance video Tuesday showing an 18-year-old black man running from police while holding what appears to be a gun just before he was fatally shot by officers in a killing that has sparked protests.
The footage shows the man crouching behind an SUV and pulling a handgun from the waistband of his sweatpants. He then tucks the gun back into his waistband and runs around the corner of a strip mall as officers run after him.
Chief Charlie Beck said Carnell Snell had a fully loaded semiautomatic handgun in one hand and turned toward officers when they fired Saturday.
The video was made public just as Black Lives Matter organizers gathered Tuesday morning to protest Snell’s killing at a meeting of the Los Angeles police commission. The board of civilian overseers convened at midmorning and was later closed to the public after demonstrators interrupted speakers and shouted for Beck’s resignation.
Protester Melina Abdullah accused police of selectively releasing a portion of video to justify the shooting and “posthumously assassinate the character of our brother Carnell Snell”.
“I don’t care if he had a gun,” she shouted. “His life matters.”
One woman who said her son had been killed by police threatened to kill officers herself. No arrests were made.
The footage posted to the police department’s YouTube channel does not show officers shooting Snell because that location was not within the viewing range of the surveillance camera. But police said the video supported the account Beck gave Monday justifying the shooting.
The 45-second clip is the only surveillance footage that has emerged connected to the shooting, though detectives are searching for more, according to officer Sal Ramirez, a police spokesman.
The department typically releases video of police operations only when ordered to do so by courts. But Beck told reporters the video of Snell with the gun was made public to promote public safety and correct misinformation about shooting.
“I think it’s important to put forward information to clarify so that people can put these events, tragic as they are, in perspective,” he said. “This is not done in any way to denigrate Mr Snell.”
Commission president Matt Johnson warned that it was too early to determine whether the shooting was justified or not.
“No matter what the circumstances, these events are tragic for the loved ones of the deceased, the friends and community members,” Johnson said. “While it’s certainly not the same as losing a loved one, these incidents are also tragic for the individual officers involved. It’s no one’s desire to take another man’s life.”
Beck offered additional details Tuesday about the portion of the shooting that was not captured by video.
Seconds after Snell was shown running out of the camera’s frame, he sprinted between two houses and turned towards officers while holding the gun, Beck said.
Officers fired three shots. Snell climbed a fence and turned again toward officers, who fired three more times, and that’s when he collapsed, Beck said.
The pursuit began when officers tried to pull over a car Snell was in because it had temporary paper license plates that did not match the year of the vehicle. Beck has said that was a possible indication to officers of a stolen car and something commonly seen in vehicles used by criminals for drive-by shootings.
Snell, seated in the car’s back seat, looked at officers and then ducked down “as if to hide from them”, Beck said.
The chief also addressed another fatal shooting over the weekend, that of an unidentified Hispanic man. Beck said the man pointed a replica that looked like a real gun at police and officers opened fire because they feared for their lives.
The shootings come amid heightened tensions over police actions involving black people and other minorities across the country.
Snell was the third black man in five days to die in confrontations with police in southern California.
Last Tuesday, Alfred Olango was fatally shot by an officer in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon when Olango took a “shooting stance” and pointed at an officer with what turned out to be a four-inch vape pen – an electronic cigarette device.
On Friday, Reginald Thomas died after being shot with a Taser by police in Pasadena. He was armed with a knife and was described by family members as mentally ill.
Meanwhile, the family of a black man killed by police in Sacramento in July demanded murder charges Monday against two officers heard on a dashcam video talking about trying to hit the man with their police cruiser before he was shot 14 times.