New details from police about the Aug. 14 officer-involved shooting of a homeless man in Venice paint the situation as a standoff in which attempts to subdue the man with less-lethal tactics failed repeatedly.
LAPD officers responded to a 5:42 p.m. disturbing the peace call about a person screaming in an alley near Thornton Court and Pacific Avenue and encountered a man later identified as 37-year-old John Penny. According to LAPD Pacific Division Capt. James Setzer, Penny was behaving erratically and refused to comply with the officers’ commands to drop a glass bottle that he was waving.
Setzer said Penny grew increasingly agitated as officers continued talking to him in an attempt to deescalate the confrontation, but Penny responded by throwing a box at them.
“The officers engaged the suspect with a Taser to no effect,” Setzer said. “Throughout the incident, the suspect was armed with a glass bottle, broken glass bottle, scrap metal piece, and finally a wooden board. Officers deployed less-lethal tools of a beanbag shotgun and 40 millimeter [foam] baton round while continuing to verbalize with the suspect.”
Penny allegedly grabbed the piece of metal and the wooden board before “hastily approaching officers,” at which point the officer-involved shooting occurred. Penny was struck once in the lower leg and arm and was transported to a local hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. The officers were not injured.
A resident who heard the gunshots from his home but didn’t witness the shooting said Penny had been sleeping in the vicinity and voiced suspicions of police abuse on Twitter: “John Penny, an unarmed black man, was just shot in my driveway by @LAPDHQ. My landlord knew him, he was harmless. We demand answers. #JusticeForJohnPenny.”
Setzer said he’s reviewed video of the shooting that shows Penny wielding a wooden board while advancing toward an office. That video is expected to become public within 45 days amid an ongoing administrative review of the shooting.
Public safety records indicate that Penny had been arrested by Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station deputies on May 24 in relation to an unspecified misdemeanor charge and by Santa Monica police on Dec. 18.
— Gary Walker
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