By Brenda Gazzar Daily News, Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police’s rank-and-file officers’ union said it was baffled by a ruling this week that found a dozen officers acted outside of LAPD policy in using lethal force against a suspect who fired at officers and a police helicopter in Sunland.
The Los Angeles Police Commission decision involved the fatal shooting of burglary suspect Anthony Soderberg, 29, of Shadow Hills on May 8 of last year. It occurred near the 11300 block of Alethea Drive after a standoff with LAPD officers.
It was the first time the department used snipers in a helicopter to shoot a suspect though officers also shot at the suspect from the ground.
Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said he was “kind of shocked” at the civilian panel’s split ruling.
“(The suspect) had a gun. He was shooting at officers. It was the ultimate safety risk,” Lally said Wednesday, adding that he had not yet seen the Inspector General’s report, which will be released in the coming days.
Monday’s 3-1 ruling, which was discussed during a more than three-hour closed-session meeting, sided with the recommendation of the Inspector General, who acts as a watchdog of the police department.
It was not immediately clear why the Inspector General believed the officers acted out of policy in using lethal force.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck had argued that the 13 officers involved in the hours-long incident acted within policy.
The Commission found that one police officer acted within policy in using lethal force. It was not clear Wednesday whether that officer acted from the helicopter or from the ground.
Beck, echoing the findings of the department’s Use of Force Review Board, agreed “that an officer with similar training and experience (as the 13 officers involved) would reasonably believe Soderberg’s actions presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury and that the use of lethal force would be objectively reasonable,” according to his April 26 report to the Commission.
Lally noted that the officers tried to negotiate and used tear gas to diffuse the situation even after the attempts on their lives. The officers also operated with authorization from command staff.
“All (the suspect) had to do was put his hands up and come outside, and there would never have been a shooting to begin with,” Lally said.
The incident, which began on 9 a.m. that day, was prompted by a radio call at a home in Alethea Drive, LAPD previously said in a news release. A woman met Foothill Division officers outside the home after she awoke to find a man in the kitchen and then fled and called police. She told the officers there were firearms inside.
The officers saw the man inside, set up a perimeter and requested more resources, including Metropolitan Division SWAT and K-9.
Around 1 p.m., SWAT was on scene when the suspect began shooting in the direction of officers. Between 1 and 3 p.m., the suspect did not surrender and would intermittently shoot at officers, according to the department. During that same period, officers were involved in shootings with the suspect. In one instance, two officers shot at the suspect from a helicopter.
The suspect exited the residence around 3 p.m. and fell down a hillside, where he was determined to be dead. A handgun was recovered at the scene.
The Commission found that officers and command staff acted within policy with regard to tactics, drawing and exhibiting a weapon, and less lethal use of force.
According to the Beck’s report to the Commission, a commander believed Soderberg was in a position where it would be “very dangerous for anybody to try to contain or engage him on foot.”
The “aerial platform shooting” – or shooting from the helicopter – offered the ability to control the terrain from the air “and it was appropriate,” Beck wrote.
“It was essential to utilize the (aerial platform shooting) to prevent Soderberg from getting into the surrounding community,” thus prompting command staff to give approval to deploy it, he said.
Before he was shot, the suspect said he would “kill all those SWAT officers that are out there,” according to Beck’s report.
Staff writer Josh Cain and City News Service contributed to this report.
©2018 the Daily News (Los Angeles)