On Saturday at about 10:53 am, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies at Century Station began getting calls about a “man with a gun” and “shots heard.” Another call reportedly featured a description of the man holding a gun wearing a checkered shirt.
Officers arrived on the scene a minute or two before 11 am and reportedly found the guy with the gun at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard; he was near to what department spokespeople described as a busy ARCO gas Station.
Deputies reportedly commanded the man to drop the gun several times but he did not drop the weapon. The man moved away from the cops, toward the center of the ARCO station—at which point the deputies began shooting, killing the suspect.
All this sounded fairly cut and dried until around midday Saturday when a video of the shooting turned up that showed the suspect in question moving away from the deputies when the first shots were fired. (This is the video posted above, which most of you have likely seen by now.)
In the video, taken from a restaurant across the street from the ARCO station, and originally provided to KTLA, we see and hear the two deputies on camera fire a volley of 15 shots or more at the retreating man. The camera again catches the suspect who is now down on the ground crawling away from the deputies. We hear another volley of around 18 shots fired at the crawling man. When the shots stop, the man still appears to try to crawl but without much energy.
The suspect, whose name is Nicholas Robertson, a 28-year-old father of three, was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Departmental updates on the incident were issued most of the day and, by late-afternoon, the press updates included a statement from Sheriff Jim McDonnell about the deputy involved shooting, and the already fast-spreading video, assuring the public that the matter was being taken very seriously.
“In this modern age of cell phone video and instant analysis on the internet, I would ask that we keep in mind that a thorough and comprehensive investigation is detailed and time intensive,” McDonnell stated. “It will involve, not just one source of information, but numerous sources, potentially including multiple videos, physical evidence and eyewitness accounts. I urge anyone who has information about this shooting incident to contact our investigators. Our number one priority is public safety.”
In subsequent hours, the department kept the press releases coming. Then on Sunday at 11 AM, McDonnell held a press conference at which he and other LASD officials showed reporters a second video pertaining to the shooting, this time taken at a different angle from a surveillance camera located at a dry cleaner located across the street from the ARCO station. Reporters were also issued still shots that appeared to show Robertson holding a gun, even once he was down.
“We understand the significant community concern any time the police are involved in the use deadly force,” said the sheriff at the press event held at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice. He also acknowledged the “strong emotions” that emerge “with investigations of this type.”
In addition to LASD homicide detectives, McDonnell said, the department was working with the District Attorney’s office, the Office of Inspector General (members of which came to the scene), and the coroner. The department has also reached out to clergy and community leaders in the area, McDonnell said. LASD officials pointed out that there were a lot of witnesses in the area, as both videos indicate, and that the department is hoping to be in contact with as many as possible.
The new video that the department screened at the press conference showed the suspect walking rapidly along the Long Beach Blvd. in front of the dry cleaner, on the N/E corner of Long Beach Blvd. and Magnolia Avenue, carrying what certainly appears to be a handgun. He did not appear to be threatening anyone on the video, but switched the pistol from his left hand, then to his right, in what can be reasonably described as an odd and agitated manner. A few seconds later, the suspect appeared again, walking the opposite direction on Long Beach, as two squad cars arrive, disgorging deputies. The deputies then presumably told the suspect to drop his weapon and, as he crossed the street toward the ARCO station, Robertson appeared to wave the deputies off. Although there is no sound on the second video, a few seconds later, presumably more commands were issued, we can see from a puff of smoke that the firing by the deputies began.
LASD Capt. Steve Katz said that the two deputies fired 16 and 17 shots, respectively for a total of 33 shots, and that one deputy had been in patrol for a year, the other for 18 months. Katz also disclosed that when Robertson was shot, there were no live rounds in his gun, a .45 caliber pistol, but that there were “two live rounds within his reach” when he fell.
There are reports that Robertson fired six or seven times a few minutes earlier, reportedly up in the air, before he arrived on camera at the dry cleaner.
Near the end of the press conference, Sheriff McDonell reemphasized that it was very early in the investigation, but “we are trying to be as transparent as possible,” he said.
On Sunday community leaders like Najee Ali, political director of the National Action Network and K.W. Tuloss, senior pastor of the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, spoke to reporters in front of the Hall of Justice. Ali urged the community not to rush to judgment.
“Let’s stay calm, cool and collected and let’s get to the truth of what happened with this situation because at the end of the day we don’t want to see what happened in Chicago, what happened in Philadelphia, what happened in Ferguson happen to LA County,” he said.
Ali and others also met with Sheriff McDonnell inside the Hall and reported afterward that the sheriff promised an independent investigation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: LA Times reporters Joel Rubin, Ruben Vives, Emily Alpert Reyes, Esmeralda Bermudez, Richard Winton, Taylor Goldenstein and Cindy Chang have been covering the Lynwood shooting well and extensively so, for more information, be sure to take a look at their latest stories.