Police release video of officer shooting man in West Long Beach last month

A man shot by Long Beach police last month admitted to calling 911 and reporting a nonexistent active shooter in an attempt to get himself shot and killed by police, according to newly released video footage of the incident.

The man, who wasn’t identified by police because he was apparently trying to kill himself, sustained only minor injuries in the shooting.

While a use-of-force expert who watched the video did not find any cause for concern in the shooting itself, he did express concern at the way LBPD deployed officers before and during the incident.

In accordance with state law, the Long Beach Police Department released several minutes of video footage from two police officers’ body-worn cameras, as well as security camera footage and a 911 call, related to the shooting.

The incident started with a 911 call made shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 31, claiming that someone was firing a gun at other people in the area of Harbor Avenue and 20th Street. The caller gave a detailed description of the alleged shooter.

“I heard him shoot,” said the caller, according to the 911 call. “He was shooting at people. He ran around and ran around the block and came back and started shooting in the air.”

After hearing this, the 911 dispatcher told the caller, “I wonder why no one else there is calling about that.”

“I have no idea, I don’t know,” said the caller.

There were no additional calls of shots fired related to that incident, according to the LBPD.

Timothy T. Williams, a use of force expert who has more than 29 years of active law enforcement experience, viewed the footage of the shooting released by the LBPD and found cause for concern in how the LBPD initially treated that call.

“If someone’s shooting a gun at 1 a.m., people will be calling the police,” said Williams. “This could have been an ambush.”

Though it’s unclear from the footage released by the LBPD what dispatch told the officers who ultimately drove to Harbor and 20th, Williams said the dispatcher should have told them that something about the call didn’t sound right.

“If something’s awry, mention it,” said Williams.

The LBPD is carrying out a “multi-level review process” of the shooting, said LBPD spokeswoman Allison Gallagher, when asked for comment on Williams’ assessment.

“This objective, multi-level review process will thoroughly examine the officers’ pre-shooting conduct, the shooting itself, and the post-shooting conduct,” said Gallagher. “It would be inappropriate for us to get ahead of our process and evaluate this incident based on the video alone without examining all the facts.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is also conducting a separate, independent investigation of the shooting.

A single officer—referred to as “Officer 1” by the LBPD—initially arrived at the intersection of Harbor and 20th, according to footage released by the police. Police did not release the names of any of the officers involved in the incident.

This was not ideal, according to Williams. “I would have had backup,” Williams said. “Before you get to the area, have a detailed plan, especially when you’re by yourself.”

According to Williams, this might have even involved deploying a helicopter over the intersection to provide intelligence that could have been used to develop what Williams called a “quick tactical plan.”

How much coordination took place before Officer 1 arrived at Harbor and 20th isn’t clear from the footage released by the police.

There is also no body-worn camera footage of the shooting itself, according to police. The officer who fired his weapon during the incident did not turn on his body-worn camera until after the shooting was over.

But a home security camera did capture the shooting, and the LBPD released that video footage as well.

When Officer 1 arrived at Harbor and 20th, he saw a man matching the description given by 911 caller who “appeared to be armed with a handgun,” according to the police. The man appeared to point a gun at Officer 1, according to the home security camera footage.

Police later determined that the gun, recovered after the shooting, was actually a CO2-powered paintball pistol.

As Officer 1 exited his vehicle, he left it in drive and began shooting at the suspect, who was across the street, according to the security camera footage. Though Officer 1 fired 20 rounds in rapid succession at the man, the man was only hit in the foot, according to police.

In any case, a second officer (“Officer 2”) arrived moments after the shooting ended, according to the footage. At this point, the man who had just been shot was lying face down in a driveway directly across the street from Officer 1.

After yelling at the man to “get on the ground!” Officer 2 told Officer 1, “I saw him pointing at you,” according to Officer 2’s body-worn camera footage.

About a minute later a third police vehicle arrives, rolling right into the middle of what Williams calls “the kill zone”—the street directly between the officers and the man.

“Back up! Back up!” one of the officers yelled at the driver of the third police vehicle. But instead of backing up, that officer simply stopped the vehicle and exited.

Williams said he considered it “very serious” that a third officer simply drove up to Officers 1 and 2 and parked the vehicle instead of backing up.

“That’s a crime scene,” Williams said. “That would have frustrated the hell out of me. It frustrated me just watching it.”

By this point in the incident, the man who’d been shot was lying face down in a driveway, according to the body-worn camera footage of Officer 2. “Don’t’ reach for that gun again, we don’t want to have to shoot you again, all right?” an officer yelled, according to the footage.

After an officer told the man to crawl across the street toward them “like a baby,” the man was taken into custody.

As the man was being handcuffed, he told officers, “I’m trying to commit suicide, that’s all I’m trying to do,” according to the video. He also said he had a suicide note in his right shoe, and told officers that he was the one who made the initial 911 call, according to police.

Police said they confirmed that his cell phone had been used to make the initial 911 call.

After officers provided medical aid, the man was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No one else was injured in the shooting, according to police.

The city prosecutor’s office is charging the man with two counts of exhibiting an imitation firearm in a threatening manner, one count of reporting a knowingly false emergency, and one count of reporting a knowingly false felony crime.

Police shoot, wound man holding paintball gun, LBPD says

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.