As they do every week during football season, the Lowe family gathered Sunday morning to watch NFL games on two large flat screens in the family matriarch’s home in South Los Angeles.
But as the San Francisco 49ers prepared to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, there was one less family member watching. Anthony Lowe, 36, was shot and killed by Huntington Park police officers Thursday afternoon.
Instead of talking about football, the family spoke in hushed tones of the grainy cell phone video they had seen the night before: Lowe, a double amputee, trying to escape Huntington Park police on what was left of his legs while holding a long-bladed knife.
Lowe’s lower leg was amputated last year. In the video, he appears to have just stepped out of a nearby wheelchair. As he made his way down the sidewalk, away from the uniformed men, two police cars entered the frame and parked, blocking the camera’s view.
The video, which was posted on Twitter on Saturday, ends abruptly; no footage of the ensuing shooting has been released.
Yatoya Toi, Low’s older sister, identified the man running from police as her brother. She said his legs were amputated after an altercation with law enforcement in Texas and that the family also has questions about that incident.
“This is the first [Sunday] where he doesn’t watch the game with us. That’s what he likes to do,” Toi said. She still uses the present tense when talking about her brother, who has two teenage children. “He is the life of the family. He brings happiness, joy; he likes to dance. He is very respected, he loves his mother. He is the favorite uncle. All the kids love him.”
Lowe’s death is a devastating loss for the tight-knit Lowe family, Toye said. And it comes at a time of increased scrutiny of police brutality and violence after a series of high-profile incidents, including the beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by Memphis police this month.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit is investigating Lowe’s shooting, as it usually does with all officer-involved shootings in Huntington Park, according to the department’s Lt. Hugo Reinaga.
A homicide detective stopped by the home of Dorothy Lowe, the dead man’s 53-year-old mother, on Saturday to question the family. They responded, Toye said, by peppering the detective with questions about Anthony’s death.
The answers the detective provided were vague and inconclusive, said Tatiana Jackson, another of Lowe’s sisters. Their biggest question: What is so threatening about a double amputee with a knife that you have to shoot him?
“There’s something wrong with this situation,” Jackson said. “My daughter is 4 and loves it. It would break my heart to tell her. She doesn’t understand. She was looking for him, like, “Is he hiding from me?” I can’t bring myself to tell her he’s never coming back.”
Reinaga said in a phone interview Sunday that the sheriff’s department had collected video of Lowe’s shooting from a nearby business, but that it did not intend to release the footage. Huntington Park police officers, he said, do not wear body cameras.
Reinaga said two officers fired at Lowe “somewhere around 10 times. … We found 10 or 11 shell casings at the scene. I don’t know which one of them actually hit him.
Reinaga said the names of the two officers who shot Lowe would be released in the coming days. The officers, he said, are on leave “for a few days” while they undergo a psychiatric evaluation and will be assigned administrative duties until the command staff approves them to return to field duty.
Asked if there was any discussion of charges against the officers who opened fire on Lowe, Reinaga said only “no.” The Huntington Park Police Department did not return calls seeking comment Sunday.
Asked why it was necessary to shoot Lowe, Reinaga noted that officers pepper-sprayed him repeatedly “to no avail” before opening fire.
Sheriff’s Dept initial statement on the shooting investigation released Friday said Lowe twice tried to swing his knife at the officers. But Reinaga said Sunday that Lowe “didn’t end up throwing the knife, but he made the motion several times over his head as if he was going to throw the knife.”
Reinaga said he did not know how many times Lowe was electrocuted.
“He tried to run away and every time he turned and made the motion as if he was going to throw the knife at him, they electrocuted him,” he said. “They were trying to give this person the less lethal shock. And since it was ineffective, they had to go to something that was more effective.
Reinaga also provided additional context about the alleged stabbing that took place shortly before Lowe was killed.
In a statement Friday, the sheriff’s department said a man in a wheelchair — later identified as Lowe — allegedly stabbed a man Thursday afternoon before fleeing in a wheelchair.
Reinaga said the victim — whose name has not been released publicly — called police to report the alleged stabbing and that he suffered a punctured lung and was taken to a hospital. Reinaga said he did not know the medical condition of the man who was stabbed.
Lowe was shot in the “upper torso” and pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting, according to a statement from the sheriff’s department Friday.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office said Sunday that Lowe’s time of death was 3:57 p.m. Thursday. Because his body had not yet been examined, the spokesman said, the office did not have information about his cause of death, the condition of his body or other key details about his death.
The limited information available on the service’s website Sunday afternoon, the location of his death was listed simply as a “sidewalk.”
The man who filmed the moments leading up to Lowe’s death could not be reached for comment Sunday. But the street behind Lowe in the video appears to be the 1900 block of Slauson Avenue in Huntington Park, where the sheriff’s department statement said he died.
On Sunday afternoon, dozens of red and white candles were arranged in the shape of the letters “BR” for BabyRyda, Lowe’s nickname because he “was always going to take care of his family. You know, like it rides for you, whether it’s doing schoolwork or taking the kids to the park. There were so many things he did,” Jackson said.
Dorothy Lowe said she last saw her son a few hours before his death. He was feeling depressed and confined to her house, where he had stayed for the last few months of his life after losing his legs, and wanted to get some fresh air, she said. The last time he was heard from, he said he was at a nearby McDonald’s.
“He was a good kid when he came – very funny, always laughing. … If you ask anybody, he was a good person, always helping others,” she said Sunday via video call from her job as a caretaker. “After his death, I don’t take death for granted and I don’t like the way my son was hurt like that and I want to know what happened. I want to know the truth.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.