No charges in fa­tal shoot­ing

LAPD of­fi­cer who killed a knife-wield­ing woman af­ter rob­bery used rea­son­able force, prose­cu­tors say.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Kate Mather kate.mather@la­times.com Twitter: @katemather

A Los An­ge­les po­lice of­fi­cer will not be charged for the fa­tal shoot­ing of an African Amer­i­can woman in a South L.A. al­ley, a killing that led pro­test­ers to camp out­side City Hall for weeks de­cry­ing the po­lice.

The de­ci­sion by the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice was made pub­lic Tues­day, nearly two years af­ter Of­fi­cer Brett Ramirez shot Redel Jones, 30, who au­thor­i­ties say was armed with a knife and sus­pected of rob­bing a nearby phar­macy about a half-hour be­fore she was killed.

In a May 1 me­moran­dum ex­plain­ing their rea­son­ing, prose­cu­tors said that Ramirez rea­son­ably feared for his life and acted law­fully to de­fend him­self when he pulled the trig­ger. Jones, the memo said, was an “armed, dan­ger­ous, flee­ing felon” and Ramirez used rea­son­able force to “ap­pre­hend” her.

Jones’ 2015 death came amid the on­go­ing na­tional out­cry over how po­lice of­fi­cers use force, par­tic­u­larly against African Amer­i­cans. The shoot­ing quickly drew the at­ten­tion of ac­tivists with the lo­cal Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, who chanted Jones’ name at weekly meet­ings of a po­lice over­sight panel and spread it on Twitter as a hash­tag.

When mem­bers of the Po­lice Com­mis­sion de­ter­mined last sum­mer that the shoot­ing fell within the Los An­ge­les Po­lice De­part­ment’s pol­icy for us­ing deadly force, ac­tivists and oth­ers marched in protest from po­lice head­quar­ters to City Hall. They camped there for more than a month, hold­ing signs and cir­cu­lat­ing a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing that Mayor Eric Garcetti fire LAPD Chief Char­lie Beck.

Melina Ab­dul­lah, a Cal State L.A. pro­fes­sor and Black Lives Mat­ter or­ga­nizer, said she be­lieved the shoot­ing war­ranted charges.

Ab­dul­lah echoed a per­sis­tent crit­i­cism from other ac­tivists and com­mu­nity lead­ers who say Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey has not been tough enough on po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of us­ing ex­ces­sive force.

“It’s en­rag­ing and heart­break­ing at the same time,” she said of the de­ci­sion not to charge the of­fi­cer who shot Jones.

Dale Galipo, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Jones’ fam­ily in a fed­eral civil rights law­suit filed against Ramirez and the city, said he was “dis­ap­pointed but not sur­prised” by the lack of pros­e­cu­tion. The district at­tor­ney’s of­fice last charged an on-duty of­fi­cer in a shoot­ing more than a decade ago, he noted.

“Why is there even a re­view process?” he said. “It’s a farce.”

Jones’ hus­band gave emo­tional tes­ti­mony to po­lice com­mis­sion­ers shortly be­fore they weighed the case last year, de­scrib­ing the mother of his chil­dren as a kind woman who “al­ways thought of oth­ers more than her­self.”

“You all stole her from me,” Mar­cus Vaughn told the board, say­ing he wanted the of­fi­cers pros­e­cuted.

Larry Hanna, one of the at­tor­neys who rep­re­sented Ramirez af­ter the shoot­ing, said he was not sur­prised that the district at­tor­ney had de­clined to pur­sue a crim­i­nal case.

“Of­fi­cers are al­ways sad­dened when they have to take a life,” he said. “She stopped so sud­denly and lunged at the of­fi­cer — he had no choice.”

The events lead­ing up to the deadly shoot­ing be­gan about 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2015, when a woman en­tered a Bald­win Hills phar­macy and slipped the cashier a note.

“I have a gun,” the pa­per read, ac­cord­ing to the prose­cu­tors’ memo. “Give me all the money in the reg­is­ter.”

The woman pointed a knife at the cashier, took about $80 and left.

Of­fi­cers in­ter­viewed the cashier, who de­scribed the rob­ber as a black woman wear­ing an over­sized beige shirt, baggy pants and a pur­ple scarf on her head, ac­cord­ing to the memo.

Ramirez and his part­ner spot­ted a woman — later iden­ti­fied as Jones — wear­ing baggy cloth­ing and a pur­ple scarf on her head and trailed her as she walked down an al­ley. At one point, Ramirez, who was still sit­ting in­side his black-and­white pa­trol car, told her to stop.

Jones kept walking, the memo said. Ramirez and his part­ner parked their car, jumped out and started af­ter her on foot. At that point, the memo said, Jones pulled out a knife.

“She’s got a knife in hand!” Ramirez broad­cast on his ra­dio, ac­cord­ing to the memo. “She’s run­ning!”

The of­fi­cers chased Jones down the al­ley, telling her to stop and drop the weapon, the memo said. At one point, prose­cu­tors said, she stopped sud­denly and charged to­ward Ramirez, point­ing the knife at him.

Ramirez fired his gun as an­other of­fi­cer shot a Taser. Jones died at the scene.

The note used in the rob­bery was un­der­neath her body, and money was in her pants pocket, the memo said. The knife was also found at the scene.

The memo from prose­cu­tors included pho­tos of the knife and blood-soaked note. Se­cu­rity cam­era video of the phar­macy rob­bery, which was in­de­pen­dently viewed by The Times in the days fol­low­ing the shoot­ing, shows a woman wield­ing a knife.

The memo also included state­ments from three other peo­ple who were in the al­ley. Two men told in­ves­ti­ga­tors they saw of­fi­cers chase Jones and saw her turn or move to­ward po­lice while hold­ing the knife.

An­other wit­ness, how­ever, said she saw some­thing else. The woman told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she didn’t see any­thing in Jones’ hands when she was shot, and never saw her turn to­ward po­lice.

Prose­cu­tors pointed to the broad­cast from Ramirez, along with the video footage from the rob­bery and the knife found at the scene.

“While there is a con­flict be­tween the wit­nesses’ opin­ions as to what oc­curred just prior to the of­fi­cer in­volved shoot­ing, we find the over­all ev­i­dence is suf­fi­cient to con­clude Jones was armed with a knife, turned and ad­vanced to­ward Ramirez,” the memo said.

Pho­to­graphs by Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

BLACK LIVES MAT­TER ac­tivists protest a 2016 Po­lice Com­mis­sion de­ci­sion sup­port­ing of­fi­cers in the 2015 shoot­ing of Redel Jones.

PRO­TEST­ERS camped at City Hall for more than a month in 2016, call­ing for Chief Char­lie Beck’s ouster.

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