Videos purported to have captured the moments before the death of a wheelchair-bound double amputee have raised questions about whether police used excessive force in the Southern California town of Huntington Park.
Thursday afternoon, Huntington Park police officers responded to a report of a stabbing, the department said in a statement Monday. Responding officers found a victim suffering from a “life-threatening stab wound resulting in a collapsed lung and internal bleeding,” the statement said.
The victim described the assailant as a black male in a wheelchair who “got out of the wheelchair, ran up to the victim without provocation and stabbed him in the side of the chest with a 12-inch butcher knife” and then fled the scene in his wheelchair, HPPD said.
The victim was taken to a local hospital and remains in critical condition, according to HPPD.
During the search, police found the alleged suspect several blocks away holding a 12-inch butcher knife, HPPD said. The suspect allegedly ignored the officer’s commands and threatened to “move forward or drop the knife,” and officers used two separate Tasers to try to subdue the suspect but were unsuccessful, HPPD said.
“The suspect continued to threaten the officers with the butcher knife, leading to an officer-involved exchange of fire,” HPPD said. It is not clear how many officers attended or shot the suspect.
The suspect was struck by gunfire in the upper torso and pronounced dead at the scene, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in an initial statement.
The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave pending ongoing investigations by HPPD, the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, HPPD said.
The sheriff’s department confirmed it was investigating but declined to comment.
Although authorities did not name the man who died, family members identified him as 36-year-old Anthony Lowe during a news conference held by a community organizer.
Videos of the incident posted on social media appear to show the confrontation between police and Lowe on Thursday just before the shooting. A family member of Lowe confirmed to CNN that the man in the video is Lowe.
In one video, two uniformed police officers can be seen pointing their guns at Lowe. Lowe then appears to walk in the opposite direction, holding something shiny in his hands as an officer walks behind him. Then a police car blocks the view. Another video from a different view shows the moment police appear to open fire.
“The way they killed my son, they killed him in a wheelchair with no legs,” Dorothy Lowe, Anthony Lowe’s mother, said at a news conference Monday. “So they really need to do something about it because I want justice for my son.”
Family members dismissed the suggestion that Lowe may have stabbed someone before the shooting.
Family and community members are calling on Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon to charge the officers involved.
“There can be no justification for Anthony’s murder, and we are here to stand with his family and community to fight for justice for Anthony,” said Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Public Control of Police.
Lowe was a loving, caring father who loved to dance and was quite funny, Ebonique Simon, the mother of one of Lowe’s children, told CNN. He was “dealing with a lot of depression” because of losing his legs in an accident about a year ago, she said.
The family is devastated by the loss and can’t understand the story police are telling, she told CNN.
The family is anxiously awaiting the results of the autopsy, as the medical examiner’s investigator assured them that “Anthony’s body will tell the story,” she said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will conduct an independent review after the sheriff’s department completes its investigation, but Communications Director Tiffiny Blacknell told CNN in a statement that it was inappropriate to comment until the case is formally presented.
“We know the black community in Los Angeles is reeling and looking for answers. We know that nothing can heal the trauma that the community is experiencing right now,” she said, adding that “Los Angeles County deserves to know how and why these incidents occurred.”
The California attorney general’s office, which is required by state law to independently review shootings involving the state, told CNN it was not investigating the matter “at this time.”