Korea town-site of the shooting
Unarmed Man Fatally Shot by LAPD
By Shirley Hawkins
Sentinel Contributing Writer
Community residents are outraged over the weekend shooting death of
27-year-old African American Steven Eugene Washington, who allegedly died from a single gunshot wound after two LAPD officers opened fire.
Washington was shot and killed just after midnight on Saturday, March 20 in Koreatown on Vermont Avenue near James M. Wood Boulevard.
Gang enforcement officers Allan Corrales and George Diego Officers allegedly heard a loud noise while riding in their patrol car and noticed Washington, who suffered from autism, looking around suspiciously and manipulating something in his waistband area.
The two officers exited their vehicle to conduct an investigative stop. Both officers claim that Washington did not respond to their commands. According to the officers, Washington proceeded to rapidly approach them when they noticed Washington reaching for something in his waistband. Apparently fearing for their lives, each officer fired once. One of the bullets fatally hit Washington in the head.
Officers called paramedics, but Washington was pronounced dead at the scene.
Both of the policemen have been reassigned while the Los Angeles Police Department's Force Investigation Division and the district attorney's office conduct a probe of the shooting.
Hours after the shooting, Washington's grieving relatives said that the autistic young man was afraid of strangers and that he suffered from learning disabilities. They said that he was not violent.
In the wake of the tragedy, several community activists met Monday with LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck to question police tactics about the tragic incident.
Activists said that Beck reviewed the LAPD's training procedures with the activists, but admitted that something went "terribly wrong" in the Washington shooting.
"Beck basically said that the LAPD plans to redouble their training efforts when reviewing procedures and practices that focus on individuals with mental challenges," said community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
"We agree that the police department should do a thorough review of their training procedures with officers and how they handle autistically and mentally challenged individuals," Hutchinson added. "Statistics show that a person with autism is six times more likely to have contact with the police than the average person. So, right away, the danger factor goes up where there could be the use of lethal or deadly force by an officer."
The community activist said he was saddened by the tragic shooting, adding that officer involved shootings occur too frequently when a person of color is involved. "It's a fact that when you look at the majority of police shootings in this county over the last decade, the overwhelming majority shot and killed by police officers have been African American or Latino."
"We can't bring Mr. Washington back, but we want to reduce the possibility of another tragedy like the Washington shooting happening again," Hutchinson said.
Lita Herron, founder of the Youth Advocacy Coalition, said that the community is shocked that Washington, an unarmed and mentally challenged individual, was killed by law enforcement--the very individuals sworn to protect and serve. "We expect a full disclosure in the Washington shooting," she declared. "The nature of police work requires them to meet the basic safety concerns of the community, but law enforcement by design has the authority and license to kill, and that's where the community's concerns begin."