The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is asking for any video that witnesses may have of a fatal weekend confrontation in Lynwood between deputies and a 28-year-old black man at whom 33 shots were fired.
Black community leaders are demanding a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Saturday’s shooting, comparing it to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago last year.
One deputy fired 16 shots at Nicholas Robertson, while another fired 17 shots, according to Capt. Steve Katz of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. One deputy has been with the department for a year, the other for about 18 months, he said, adding that both have been re-assigned from field duty.
Stressing the investigation was still in its “infancy,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell held a news conference Sunday, when he said his department would release video of Robertson and the 911 calls that brought deputies to an ARCO station near the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue.
The released surveillance video shows the gun-toting man walking up and down a street before the fatal confrontation. The 911 calls describe a man shooting a gun into the air.
Katz said Robertson fired six to seven shots in a nearby residential area, which prompted the first of at least six 911 calls at about 10:55 a.m. Saturday. He allegedly left the neighborhood after opening fire and began walking, still carrying the weapon, which Katz said was a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
The sheriff’s captain said Robertson walked south on Long Beach Boulevard, acting oddly and yelling out, and briefly spent time at a car wash and pizza place before deputies arrived at the scene. They located Robertson in front of a busy ARCO gas station, about seven blocks south of the 105 Freeway.
The deputies “immediately gave him multiple commands to drop the gun,” said Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. “The suspect did not comply and did not drop the handgun, at which time a deputy- involved shooting occurred.”
During Sunday’s news conference, Katz added that Robertson’s gun “was in the direction of the sheriff’s deputy,” yet not pointed directly at them.
“The movement indicated that he was motioning in the direction of the sheriff’s deputies,” he said. “There were several citizens in the area. There were some concerns about their safety.”
Witnesses in the immediate area told investigators they saw the suspect turn and point the gun at deputies before the shooting, Navarro-Suarez said. But a witness video broadcast on local television appears to show the suspect turning his back on deputies and walking away when he was shot.
Katz said the incident may have been triggered by “some domestic discord that (might) have agitated him to some degree, but we haven’t confirmed that yet.”
Robertson, father of an 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twins, was shot and killed at 11:10 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Following McDonnell’s news conference, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Project Islamic Hope President Najee Ali and other civil rights leaders demanded a U.S. Justice Department probe into the shooting.
“The shooting of Robertson is eerily similar to the shooting of Lacquan McDonald in Chicago. The Justice Department stepped in to investigate that shooting as well as the pattern and practice of police practices there,” Hutchinson and Ali said in a joint statement.
“The killing of Robertson demands the same type of Justice Department impartial scrutiny. We have no confidence that the Sheriff’s Department can or will be impartial in investigating itself.”
McDonnell asked anyone who might have cell phone video of the incident to share it with investigators, and Sheriff’s homicide detectives asked anyone with any information regarding the shooting to call them at (323) 890-5500.
—Staff and wire reports