No charges in fatal shooting
LAPD officer who killed a knife-wielding woman after robbery used reasonable force, prosecutors say.
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.
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.