Los Angeles, CA – A civilian oversight panel has determined that 12 officers violated the department’s use of force policy when LAPD fatally shot a man from a helicopter while the suspect was shooting at them.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the ruling puts the Los Angeles Police Commission at odds with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who had previously said all aspects of the May 8, 2017, shooting in Sunland were within policy.
The incident in question was the first time the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) used a helicopter to get officers close enough to shoot at a suspect during a barricade situation.
A woman woke up at about 9 am to find a man in the kitchen of her home in the 11300-block of Alethea Drive in Sunland, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The woman was able to escape through a bedroom window, and when she got out, she called police. She told officers there was a handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, and ammunition inside the home.
SWAT officers determined that 29-year-old Anthony Soderberg posed a more of a threat because he’d barricaded himself inside a home on a hill at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the elevated position gave him an advantage.
So the lieutenant contacted a captain and asked permission to dispatch a helicopter to assist them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In the meantime, a crisis negotiation team arrived to negotiate with Soderberg, and they sent in a robot to facilitate communication with him.
Police heard two gunshots from within the residence, and Soderberg yelled obscenities and threatened, "I'll put a bullet in your head," according to the Los Angeles Times.
A negotiator asked Soderberg to put down the gun via the robot, and again, multiple gunshots could be heard. The gunman responded with profanity and said, "I'll kill all those SWAT officers that are out there."
According to the report released on Monday, an LAPD commander decided that using a helicopter with armed officers was the "safest means" to contain Soderberg if he began shooting.
So officers deployed teargas into the home after an hours-long standoff, and Soderberg went out into the yard with a gun in his hand, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Soderberg engaged the officers in the helicopter in a gunfight. Multiple officers fired at Soderberg during the gunfight, and he was fatally shot.
The recently released report said that at least 40 rounds were fired during the standoff, and multiple rounds were fired from a distance of 500 feet or more.
In a report to the five-member police commission, Chief Beck said that Soderberg's actions "presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury," and that the use of lethal force would be "objectively" reasonable, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But in a closed-door vote on Monday, the police commission voted three-to-one to find the officers had acted out of policy.
Police Commission President Steve Soboroff refused to comment on his panel’s decision and it remained unclear as to why the officers were found to have violated policy, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The police union told the Los Angeles Times it was "extremely disappointed with the commission's decision" and that the officers deserved to be thanked.
"This armed suspect fired his weapon at LAPD officers, he fired at an LAPD helicopter with officers on board, putting all of their lives, and anyone on the ground at risk if his shots struck the pilot or damaged the aircraft," the union said in a statement. "Our officers operated with full authorization from command staff to try and contain this incident and only used appropriate force to protect their own lives and the lives of civilians on the ground."