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LAPD chief questions police killing of homeless man

Rights group says criminalization of homeless played role in death; LAPD calls for community meeting to address killing

The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Thursday questioned an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man, as the department announced it would host a community meeting in Venice Beach about the incident.

The man, who friends identified as “Dizzle," was shot and killed by police officers outside a bar near the neighborhood’s boardwalk on Tuesday. 

Police officers had responded to a call saying a homeless individual with a dog was harassing customers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Dizzle, a black man in his early 20s, was fatally shot as officers attempted to detain him.

A security camera on a nearby building captured the incident, but the LAPD did not elaborate on what was recorded, except to say there was no evidence that Dizzle attempted to arm himself during the struggle, the Times reported.

A town hall-style meeting hosted by the LAPD was planned in Venice to address the incident, according to homeless advocacy groups.

News of the community meeting followed a Wednesday statement by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in which he said he had not seen evidence to justify the shooting death, and that the investigation was ongoing.

“Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances,” Beck said during a news conference. 

The Los Agengles Times identified Dizzle as Brandon Glenn and said he was described as a kind man who constantly told people he loved them and was known for his “hand hugs” — or grabbing someone’s hand before saying goodbye.

Dizzle’s death comes amid a national movement against police brutality after a series of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men.

His death is also the second recent police killing of an unarmed homeless man in Los Angeles — in March, a homeless man nicknamed “Africa” was shot and killed by police in the city’s Skid Row neighborhood.

Homeless advocates said they would attend Thursday’s meeting to highlight that while police brutality may have played a role in the shooting, there were broader issues at play — namely gentrification, a lack of affordable housing and criminalization of the homeless.

“I think it’s important to understand that in Venice Beach and also in Skid Row, police brutality and the criminalization of the homeless can’t be separated,” said Eric Ares, communications coordinator for the Los Angeles Community Action network, a group that focuses on poverty in policy making.

“They are also two areas with a large houseless population that is being criminalized and displaced through gentrification, with the police being used to do that,” he added. “Venice Beach and Skid Row are the two most police-saturated areas of the city, and it is no coincidence it’s also where homeless folks butt up against wealthy folks.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Ares said members of the LA Community Action Network would call for more social outreach, services for the homeless, and affordable housing — instead of more police.

Another issue the group plans to raise is the use of police in handling social issues, including those that involve the homeless, as opposed to an alleged crime.

Ares helped coordinate the national Homeless Bill of Rights campaign aimed at ending the criminalization of the homeless. The campaign culminated in the introduction of legislation in California, Oregon, and Colorado to protect the rights of the homeless to rest and carry out other basic acts of survival in public areas.

Criminalization of the homeless comes into play in the latest incident, Ares said, because of the extreme violence taken against Dizzle in a situation that he said happens all the time.

“I do know the incident happened outside of a bar … how many incidents are there where someone fights with a bouncer and it ends up in a murder?” Ares asked.

Growing criminalization of the homeless has created a situation in which those individuals are characterized as disposable and less than human, Ares said.

One recent example, Ares said, was the extreme force taken against an unarmed, black homeless man last month in Venice Beach for a nonviolent crime.

Video of the incident showed the man, Samuel Arrington, sitting under an umbrella on the beach when officers came to cite him for having it tied to city property. Officers soon forced Arrington to the ground, used a Taser on him four times, struck him in the head multiple times and hog-tied him in front of a crowd of over 100 onlookers.

“In those cases a person might get arrested or ticketed, but the extreme violence seems to happen to the homeless folks,” Ares said.

With wire services

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