Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a homeless mentally-ill man from Cameroon in Central Africa who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police during a videotaped struggle on downtown’s Skid Row.
Charly “Africa” Keunang, 43, was killed March 1, 2015, when he struggled with police who approached him about a robbery call in the 500 block of South San Pedro Street. Police said Keunang tried to remove an officer’s gun from its holster during the scuffle, leading to the shooting.
The 30-page complaint brought by Keunang’s family against the city of Los Angeles and four of its police officers alleges wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Plaintiffs allege the officers failed to follow their training, turning a calm interaction into a chaotic, violent encounter that ended Keunang’s life. The case focused national attention on police shootings because the incident was caught on video by a bystander and quickly went viral after it was posted on Facebook.
The encounter was also recorded on body cameras worn by two of the involved officers, making it one of the first police shootings with body camera evidence. That footage was released to the public in January.
Keunang’s mother Heleine Tchayou contends that eyewitness accounts, and bystander and body camera footage reveal that the officers could have avoided deadly force.
In February 2016, the Police Commission ruled that two officers and a sergeant were justified in shooting Keunang. Police Chief Charlie Beck said at the time that Keunang was a robbery suspect and that evidence supported reports he had tried to grab a rookie officer’s gun.
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