Videos purportedly capturing the moments before the shooting death of a double-amputee man holding a knife after a stabbing attack are raising questions about whether police used excessive force in the Southern California city of Huntington Park.
On Thursday afternoon, Huntington Park Police Department officers responded to a report of a stabbing, the department said in a statement Monday. Responding officers found a victim suffering from “a life-threatening stab wound resulting in a collapsed lung and internal bleeding,” the statement said.
The victim described the attacker as a Black man in a wheelchair who “dismounted the wheelchair, ran to the victim without provocation, and stabbed him in the side of the chest with a 12” butcher knife” and then fled the scene in his wheelchair, HPPD said.
The victim was taken to a local hospital and was in critical condition, according to HPPD.
During their search, police found the alleged suspect a few blocks away holding a 12-inch butcher knife, HPPD said. The suspect allegedly ignored officer commands and threatened to “advance or throw the knife,” and officers used two separate Tasers to try and subdue the suspect but failed, HPPD said.
“The suspect continued to threaten officers with the butcher knife, resulting in an officer-involved shooting,” HPPD said. It was not immediately clear how many officers were present or shot the suspect.
The suspect was struck by gunfire in the upper torso and was pronounced dead on scene, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in an initial statement.
The involved officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending ongoing investigations from HPPD, the sheriff’s department’s Homicide Bureau and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, HPPD said.
The sheriff’s department confirmed it is investigating but declined to comment.
Bystander videos appear to show the confrontation
While authorities did not name the man who died, family members identified him as 36-year-old Anthony Lowe.
Attorneys for Lowe’s family have filed a claim against the city – the first step toward a possible wrongful death lawsuit. Huntington Park officials have 45 days to respond, after which a lawsuit can be filed in state court.
The city confirmed receipt of the claim but had no comment, according to spokesman Sergio Infanzon.
Lowe’s family is demanding the police officers involved are identified and prosecuted. They’re also demanding that surveillance video from a nearby medical clinic, which apparently shows the entire incident, be turned over for the family to review.
CNN reached out to the medical clinic, which declined to share the video and said it had been turned over to authorities.
Bystander videos of the incident posted on social media appear to show the confrontation between police and Lowe on Thursday just before the shooting. A family member of Lowe confirmed to CNN the man in the video is Lowe.
In one video, two uniformed officers are seen pointing their guns at Lowe. Lowe then appears to move himself in the opposite direction, holding something shiny in his hands, while an officer walks behind him. A police car then obscures the view. Another video from a different view shows the moment when officers appear to open fire.
“The way they killed my son, they murdered my son in a wheelchair with no legs,” Dorothy Lowe, Anthony Lowe’s mother, said at a news conference Monday. “So they do need to do something about it, because I do I want justice for my son.”
Family members did not address the suggestion that Lowe may have stabbed someone prior to the shooting.
The family and community members are calling on Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to charge the involved officers.
“There can be no justification for killing Anthony, and we’re here to stand with his family and his community to fight for justice for Anthony,” said Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office will conduct an independent review after the sheriff’s department completes its investigation, but Communications Director Tiffiny Blacknell told CNN in a statement that it is inappropriate to comment until the case is formally presented.
“We know that the Black community in Los Angeles is reeling and searching for answers. We know nothing can heal the trauma the community is experiencing right now,” she said, adding that “Los Angeles County deserves to know how and why these incidents have occurred.”
The California Attorney General’s office, which is required under state law to independently review officer-involved shootings in the state, told CNN that it is not investigating the matter “at this point in time.”
Lowe was a loving, caring father who loved to dance and was quite funny, Ebonique Simon, mother to one of Lowe’s children, told CNN. He had been “dealing with a lot of depression” over the loss of his legs in an incident around a year ago, she said.
The family is heartbroken over the loss and cannot make sense of the story the police are telling, she told CNN.
The family is eagerly awaiting autopsy results as the coroner’s investigator assured them that “Anthony’s body will tell the story,” she said.