A police commission panel has found the killing of Neil Peter White by LAPD Officer Stephan Shuff “unjustified” after White grabbed an officer’s stun gun, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.
In July 2015, Shuff and his unidentified LAPD partner had responded to a distress call of a man, later identified as Neil Peter White, breaking windows with a skateboard in downtown LA. Upon arriving on the scene, the officers instructed the unruly man to lie on the ground. White refused and instead tried to flee on his skateboard. He was tackled to the ground by Shuff and ordered to remove his hands from under his chest so that he could be cuffed. White refused to comply, and Shuff told his rookie partner to tase him. She administered two shots to his stomach before putting her stun gun on the ground as she tried to help her partner restrain White.
— RT America (@RT_America) June 30, 2016
White grabbed the taser and stunned the female officer, which prompted Shuff to fatally shoot White in the back of the neck.
The officer later told investigators, “I honestly thought he was going to go for a gun.”
The LA police Commission refuted Shuff’s reason for the shooting, agreeing with Police Chief Charlie Beck, who said that the officer violated LAPD policy with the use of deadly force. The panel said White’s shooting was “unjustified,” adding that they could not “reasonably believe the subject’s actions presented an imminent threat of death or serious injury.”
The panel also faulted the two officers for compromising their safety, which eventually led to the fatal accident. Shuff was criticized for not waiting for backup and instead telling his rookie partner to grab the skateboard. His partner was also heavily criticized for leaving her stun gun unsecured on the ground where White could grab it. Shuff, a nine-year veteran on the force, has returned to work and awaits his punishment. His partner had only spent 15 months in the LAPD when the incident happened.
This is not the first time that someone has been killed by an LAPD officer under controversial circumstances.
— Marcus Yam (@yamphoto) June 29, 2016
In 2014, two officers, Sharlton Wampler and his partner Antonio Villegas, confronted a mentally-ill black man, Ezell Ford, as he walked in his neighborhood. The officers said the area was known for gang and drug activity, and they had reasonable suspicion to stop Ford because he had just spoken to well-known gang members and was acting nervous.
Wambler said when Ford refused to talk to him, he tried to cuff him and a struggle broke out. Ford had the upper hand and ended up on top of the officer during the struggle and managed to pull out the officer’s gun from his holster. Villegas shot Ford twice, and Wampler, who had a backup pistol, shot him in the back. There were no drugs found on Ford.
A committee investigating the fatal shooting incident said that Wampler had no reason to suspect or arrest Ford, criticizing his use of deadly force after considering “the totality of the circumstances.” Villegas was found less culpable because he drew out his weapon and fired in an attempt to protect his partner.
Police Chief Charlie Beck had said the shooting was justified, but the LA police commission refuted his assessment, saying the officer’s use of deadly force contravened LAPD policy, according to a Los Angeles Times report from the time, adding that the officer’s handling of the confrontation was misjudged and deeply flawed.
The commission ruling was applauded by Ford’s family but drew plenty of displeasure from officers who felt they were not being treated fairly for proactive policing. Ford, a black man diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, died two days after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Do you believe Stephan Shuff’s shooting of Neil Peter White was justified?
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]