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LASD fatally shoots unarmed Black man in Norwalk, falsely assuming he was armed

Vishal P. Singh
Los Angeles County Sheriff Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (Photo by Ayaka, Creative Commons)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shot and killed a currently unidentified Black male in his 30s. The man was unarmed. The shooting by deputies occurred at Piuma Avenue and Alondra Boulevard in Norwalk on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at around 9:50 a.m. The department has yet to comment on the shooting via social media, beyond a tweet from yesterday at 11:21 a.m. advising people to “avoid the area.”

According to a news release from the department: deputies from the Norwalk station were notified by a Los Angeles Police Department airship that a white utility box van was driving erratically. Deputies responded and pursued the vehicle to conduct a traffic stop. The van stopped, and deputies allege that the man was holding an object that they perceived to be a gun. That is when they opened fire on the driver, who was pronounced dead on the scene by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Deputies claim that they only confirmed the man was unarmed after the shooting occurred. Their news release says that they didn’t realize the item wasn’t a firearm until it had been recovered. The department has not informed the public what the item turned out to be. Instead, they merely stated that the truck had been reported stolen. However, even if this is true, it does not explain why the driver was shot and killed on the spot. The department seems to be relying on the false assumption of a gun in order to explain why this shooting occurred.

Cynthia Lee of the George Washington University Law School wrote a report about the intersection of race, police use of force, and false assumptions about seeing guns that don’t exist. Law enforcement in the United States have a much higher rate of shooting unarmed people of color, especially Black men, while falsely assuming they’re armed. According to Lee’s findings, the words “I thought he had a gun” coming from a law enforcement officer is enough to justify most killings of unarmed people of color by police.

“In the old days, the cops simply shot their black victims and [planted] a weapon the officers carried for such emergencies. Nowadays, weapons need exist only in the mind of the policeman in firing position.” — Les Payne, Journalist for Newsday1

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has now killed 19 people this year. They have been target of massive Black Lives Matter and social justice protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd story taking the nation by storm, in addition to the department’s own killings that, activists say, are racially motivated. Killings like that of Andres Guardado, Dijon Kizzee and Fred Williams.

There has been little coverage about this most recent shooting of an unarmed Black man by deputies. This killing was likely overshadowed by the department’s press conference yesterday on their alleged outreach program for the unhoused crisis.

Unhoused advocates from the group StreetWatch LA took to social media to ask “why are we allowing the LA County Sheriff to do “outreach” to unhoused people” in the wake of this shooting, emphasizing that “40% of unhoused people are Black.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department declined to comment upon my inquiry of whether or not they believe this shooting was justified.


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