A Los Angeles police officer testified Wednesday that he opened fire on an 18-year-old suspect in South Los Angeles in 2016 after the young man pointed one of two guns he was holding toward him.
“I straightened my arm and fired two rounds,” Officer Evan Urias told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by Prescious Sasser and the estate of her late son, Kenney Watkins.
The suit filed in December 2016 maintains that instead of shooting Watkins, Urias should have called for a helicopter and set up a perimeter of backup officers.
Sasser’s lawyer, Michael Curls, told jurors in his opening statement that Watkins died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the back. He acknowledged that Watkins was carrying two weapons while fleeing from Urias.
Urias said he withheld fire when he saw a firearm in Watkins’ left hand, but used deadly force after he saw the second weapon in the suspect’s right hand. He said he fired his weapon from the motorcycle he was riding about 3:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 2016, while Watkins was running down a sidewalk a short distance from the intersection of Figueroa Street and Century Boulevard.
“He turned and looked at me,” Urias said. “I saw the barrel first, turning toward me.”
Urias said that earlier, he was on his motorcycle when he tried to stop a car in the 400 block of West Century Boulevard for having illegally tinted windows and no front license plate. Urias said he followed the female driver as she turned down side streets, drove along Grand Avenue and returned to near Century and Figueroa before Watkins, a passenger in the car, got out and started running.
Urias said he was concerned that Watkins, wearing a hood on a hot day and holding his hands inside his waistband, was trying to hide his identity and any weapons he may have been carrying as he sprinted across a service station and down the street.
“I wanted to stop him immediately,” Urias said. “I believed he was armed.”
Urias said he called on his radio for help.
“I didn’t want to be in his line of sight,” Urias said. “I did not want to get shot.”
Urias said that on the day of the shooting, he and a companion on another motorcycle were part of a team working to discourage robberies, including some at bus stops, by having a high visibility in the area. He said he has been with the LAPD for 11 1/2 years.