A Huntington Beach police officer was captured on video Friday morning as he struggled with a suspect in a convenience store parking lot and then shot the man multiple times, fatally wounding him.
Bystander video of the incident posted on social media showed the officer struggling with the man in front of a 7-Eleven store and the man pulling an object from the officer’s utility belt. The officer then unholstered his pistol, moved quickly away and began firing.
The videos show the man standing, turning and hunching his shoulders as the sound of up to seven gunshots can be heard. The officer’s voice also can be heard shouting, “Get down!” The man then drops a dark object from his right hand and collapses to the ground.
“This appears to be video of the event, but we have not confirmed the source. We are in the preliminary stages of our investigation and are not releasing any further details at this time,” said police spokeswoman Officer Angie Bennett.
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The deadly encounter occurred about 9:30 a.m., when the officer contacted the man at the 7-Eleven at 6012 Edinger Ave. and the two got into an altercation, Bennett said. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Nearby Marina High School was placed on lockdown for roughly an hour after the shooting.
The bystander who captured the video told The Times that he was in his car when he saw a police officer backing his cruiser out of the 7-Eleven parking lot. The officer stopped and flashed his headlights at a man dressed in dark clothing. When the officer got out of his vehicle and approached, the man swung at the officer.
The bystander said he lost sight of the pair momentarily, then saw the officer standing over the man. That’s when he began recording the episode.
Police use of force experts say the video does not tell the whole story of the incident.
“The big question here is what does this officer know that I don't know,” said Charles “Sid” Heal, a retired L.A. County sheriff's commander and shooting expert. Did the officer hear something from the man or someone else that made that man a real deadly threat to a reasonable officer? “It is almost a panic shooting because of how quickly he shoots.” of the patrolman.
Heal said that in a fight, an officer isn’t always aware of what a suspect might snatch from their belt, and that might have escalated the situation. “He could have thought the man grabbed his Taser. That is weapon that can disable an officer.”
Ed Obayashi, a sheriff's deputy and legal advisor for Plumas County, said the man’s proximity to the officer and his rapid movements may have increased the officer’s perception of a threat.
Obayashi said it is not unusual for an officer to shoot multiple times once they decide to fire. “This is an unreal small amount of time, and the brain tells the fingers to keep pulling that trigger,” Obayashi said.
What is unusual in this instance however, is that the officer tells the man to get down, Obayashi said, “You never hear that after an officer's shots. This officer is clearly shocked this man is still standing and not going down.”
There have been seven shootings by Huntington Beach Police in 2017. Earlier this month, two Huntington Beach police officers were injured by their own gunfire as they confronted a knife-wielding man.
The shooting comes at a time of tension within the city’s police department. Last month, the officers’ union announced that its members had overwhelmingly approved a no confidence vote in Chief Robert Handy. Handy who has lead the department since 2013, began equipping officers with body cameras last year, despite opposition from members of the police union board.