Death by LAPD

Zuleima Alvarado, Staff Writer
September 14, 2010
Filed under Opinion

While most of us enjoyed our three-day weekend, the Westlake community was confronted by a tragedy that sparked anger, violence and protests. But what exactly is all the ruckus about?

On Sept. 5, police shot and killed 37-year-old day laborer, Manuel Jamines. Jamines was allegedly armed with a knife and threatening people in a busy shopping district near downtown Los Angeles.

According the Los Angeles Times, three police officers, from the bicycle unit of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division, were flagged by a pedestrian near 6th and Union Street. The pedestrian reported that a man with a knife was threatening people in the area. The officers responded immediately and ordered Jamines to drop the knife. According to the police report, Jamines failed to comply with the orders and was ultimately shot and killed.

In the aftermath of the incident protesters have been camped out at the scene with signs reading “asesinos!” or “killers” in Spanish. While public opinion seems to be split, many protesters believe that Jamines was unarmed at the time of the shooting. But why would an officer shoot a man for no reason? LAPD had to be sure that Jamines in fact did have a knife in order for them to shoot him, right?

The police officers were simply trying to protect themselves. According to the police report, Jamines lunged at the officers, and that’s when he was fired upon. What I am against is the LAPD’s flagrant use of lethal force. They could have just shot Jamines in a non-fatal area such as the arms or legs. Instead, they resorted to the last option first, which ultimately resulted in the death of Jamines.

Another way this tragedy could have possibly been avoided is through the use of non-lethal weaponry, such as a baton or a stun-gun. While I understand that police are faced with many difficult situations, and split second decisions, on a day-to-day basis this still does not justify such liberal use of lethal force.

According to the LA Times, an internal investigation is underway to determine what really happened that fateful Sunday. The question remains, however, will that investigation simply be conducted to assuage the concerns of the protesters, or will it perhaps uncover some new and meaningful information. Is there more to the story here? Could it be that the police are hiding something from us, perhaps in the interest of protecting their officers? Unfortunately if they are, we’ll never know.

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