CHP fatally shoots pedestrian on 105 Freeway; man used Taser on officer, agency says

Video appears to show a California Highway Patrol officer shooting a man on the 105 Freeway in Watts on Sunday afternoon. <span class="copyright">(Los Angeles Times)</span>
Video appears to show a California Highway Patrol officer shooting a man on the 105 Freeway in Watts on Sunday afternoon. (Los Angeles Times)
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For the record:
3:23 p.m. Nov. 21, 2023: An earlier version of this article said the man fatally shot by a CHP officer took a Taser from the officer. CHP officials say the man “was able to access a Taser he had in his possession” and used it against the officer.

Video recorded by a bystander appears to show a deadly encounter in which a California Highway Patrol officer repeatedly shoots a man after a struggle in the middle of the 105 Freeway in Watts on Sunday afternoon.

CHP officials said Monday evening that they responded to the freeway about 3:15 p.m. Sunday after receiving multiple calls about a man walking through traffic near the Wilmington Avenue exit.

After the trooper made contact with the pedestrian, "a struggle ensued and an officer-involved shooting occurred," the CHP said in a release. CHP officials said that during the altercation the man "was able to access a Taser" and used it against him.

"In fear for his safety, the officer fired his service weapon, striking the pedestrian," the CHP statement said.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner's office did not provide identification of the deceased Monday, pending notification of family. A cause of death was not released.

The video shows a CHP officer on top of another person as the two struggle on the pavement in the middle of what appears to be a closed stretch of freeway.

After a few seconds, while the two tussle, a gun seems to go off and a bullet ricochets off the pavement near the body of the man, who remains on the ground.

The officer then stands up and shoots at least four additional times at the prone man.

The man lies motionless for the rest of the minute-long video. The CHP officer remains by the body with his gun drawn.

It was not immediately clear who posted the video online.

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) called the video "deeply disturbing” and said the community deserves answers.

“If the roles were reversed, people would be immediately calling for murder charges," Bradford said. "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."

The CHP directed all inquiries to the California Department of Justice, which investigates police shootings in which unarmed people are killed, according to the department.

The state Department of Justice declined comment but confirmed in a statement the agency is investigating the shooting.

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The shots were audible from the Salvation Army shelter below the freeway’s banks, where a faint trace of blood remained visible Monday morning.

People at the homeless shelter said they didn’t know the victim, but said it's common to see others walking on the freeway, searching for bottles and cans.

Residents at nearby Imperial Courts, who were awaiting the start of a turkey giveaway, said they also heard the shots fired Sunday.

Terikisha Burke, 35, said she missed a flight to Atlanta because she got stuck in traffic on the 105 after the shooting. She sat at the on-ramp with her 5-year-old for “three hours and some change,” costing her thousands of dollars and a holiday catering job, she said.

"I never knew it was a shooting until you told me,” she told The Times.

Read more: After police killings, families are kept in the dark and grilled for information

Travis Norton, a law enforcement officer who runs the California Assn. of Tactical Officers After Action Review, said video is a limited way to understand a police shooting.

"It is hard to diagnose without knowing what the officer saw, experienced and interpreted was happening," Norton said. "All I see is a very short scuffle. I see the suspect point something that appears to look like some sort of weapon. ... From the video, without knowing anything else about it, the use of deadly force appears appropriate."

But other experts said the use of force raises many questions.

Ed Obayashi, a police shootings expert who investigates the incidents for numerous law enforcement agencies in California, said investigators will immediately ask the officer why he was engaging with the person without a partner or backup in the immediate vicinity.

Obayashi also said that investigators will look into why the officer felt the need to shoot the man after standing up and disengaging from him.

"Why did you shoot him while he was on the ground?" Obayashi said investigators will ask. "You separated yourself from the individual; why was he still a threat to you?"

Staff writer Jeremy Childs contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.