Man who was shot, wounded by LAPD had a gun and fought with officers, chief says
An LAPD investigator cordons off a police car as part of an investigation into last week’s fatal police shooting of a 20-year-old man in Wilmington. Chief Charlie Beck said that Eric Rivera fell to the ground after he was shot and was then struck by the officers’ vehicle. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
An 18-year-old remained in critical condition Tuesday, days after he was shot by police following a fight with Los Angeles police officers in a Montecito Heights driveway.
L.A. Police Department Chief Charlie Beck offered new details about the events leading up to Thursday’s shooting of Pedro Echeverria, telling the city’s police commissioners that one officer saw him holding a gun during the struggle. Echeverria began to run and then turned toward the officers, Beck said, prompting police to fire.
Activists have rallied around Echeverria, spreading his name on social media with a hashtag and holding a weekend vigil at the hospital where he is being treated.
Officers stopped Echeverria in the 4400 block of Turquoise Street about 3:15 p.m. Thursday, the LAPD has said. Beck did not say why the officers did so but said he had recently been arrested for having a gun.
During that encounter, Beck told the Police Commission, officers noticed a bulge in his shorts in an area where a gun could be hidden. The officers tried to get “verbal compliance,” Beck said. At some point, the fight began.
Darlene Escalante had just set her daughter to the kitchen when she heard a scuffle in her driveway. Escalante, who knows Echeverria’s mother, said she had seen the 18-year-old near her house when she returned home from running errands. Escalante also saw a police car make a U-turn at the end of the street.
When she heard the fight, Escalante said she ran out the door and down the steps of her porch. As she reached the last step, she said, she heard a gunshot. Escalante said she watched Echeverria fall to the ground as two officers kept firing.
“He wasn’t moving,” she said. “I started to yell at him and I was asking him not to move. I was afraid that they would shoot some more.”
Escalante ran back inside and grabbed her cellphone, filming Echeverria as he lay shirtless in her driveway, next to an LAPD SUV. She started calling his mother.
Her video shows paramedics wheeling Echeverria away in a stretcher. “Mijo,” Escalante reassures him, “you’re OK, OK? They’re taking you now.”
When asked about Escalante’s account on Tuesday, an LAPD spokesman said the investigation was in its early stages.
“We’re still trying to discern what happened,” Josh Rubenstein said.
Investigators are looking at body camera footage as part of that inquiry, Rubenstein said. Both officers were wearing the devices, he said, but they fell off during the struggle with Echeverria and didn’t capture the actual shooting.
Rubenstein said the footage would still be useful to investigators, saying there was “evidence they will be able to use.”
A handgun was found at the scene, Beck said.
Escalante disputed some of Beck’s comments about Echeverria, whom the police chief described as a known gang member. Echeverria wasn’t in a gang, she said. He was “trying to find himself,” she said, meeting with a youth counselor and making plans to enroll at Pasadena City College. He graduated high school a day before he was shot.
“I really hope that he pulls through so he can see that he has a second chance at life,” Escalante said.
Escalante said she was deeply rattled by what happened.
“When I go to sleep, this is what I see,” she said. “It’s not OK.”
The shooting was one of two by Los Angeles police last week. Two days before Echeverria was wounded, police shot and killed a 20-year-old man in Wilmington whose body was then run over by a police cruiser.
Officers went to the neighborhood about 11 p.m. on June 6 after receiving a report of a man with a gun, Beck said. When they arrived, witnesses pointed them toward a “potential suspect,” later identified as Eric Rivera.
Rivera was walking on the sidewalk along Wilmington Boulevard when officers drove toward him, Beck said. Rivera turned toward them, the chief said, with what the officers thought was a gun in his hand.
The officers bailed out of the car so quickly they didn’t put it in park, Beck said. At least one officer shot Rivera, who fell to the ground. The car then rolled over him.
Rivera died at the scene. Coroner’s officials have listed the Lomita resident’s cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds, saying he was struck in the head and chest.
A plastic toy gun was found at the scene, Beck said.
Rubenstein, the department spokesman, said investigators were looking at body camera footage as part of the probe.
One of the officers was hurt during the encounter, prompting initial — and ultimately incorrect — reports that the officer has been shot. Beck said Tuesday that the injury to the officer’s arm was likely because of the car, though that had not been confirmed.