Many questions but few answers surround death of unarmed homeless man, who some say was reaching into his back pocket when he was shot
By Joe Piasecki and Gary Walker
The fatal police shooting of an unarmed homeless man in Venice has touched off an outpouring of grief and outrage, with few answers emerging as to why officers employed lethal force.
The shooting occurred at around 11 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Townhouse & Del Monte Speakeasy near Windward and Pacific avenues, where two LAPD patrol officers were responding to a report of a man fighting with a bouncer and harassing passersby. Police say the officers confronted the man and shot him during an ensuing altercation that injured one of the officers.
Coroner’s office investigators have identified the man as 29-year-old Brendan Glenn.
According to several friends and acquaintances, Glenn struggled with alcohol abuse and bouts of intense sadness but had been seeking gainful employment and a fresh start in life after recently arriving in Venice from upstate New York. Several people said Glenn, who often went by the nickname Dizzle and cared for a dog named Dozer, was drunk and emotionally distraught in the hours before he died.
Police are reviewing surveillance video footage of the altercation as part of an internal affairs and use-of-force investigation, LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante said Thursday during an LAPD-organized community meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary School that drew some 500 people.
Many among the largely hostile crowd shouted frequently at officials to release videotape of the incident. Demonstrators who marched through Venice that morning to denounce the shooting and others who gathered at an outdoor memorial for Glenn that night also called on LAPD to release the videotape.
Video footage has not been released because it could interfere with the recollections of witnesses, LAPD Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala said during the meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary. Police are actively seeking additional witnesses, she said.
“We cannot taint the memories of witnesses. We want them to be absolutely sure of what they saw or heard,” Girmala said.
Speakers at the meeting also included L.A. Police Commission President Steve Soboroff, LAPD Pacific Division Capt. Nicole Alberca and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
Two people who claim to have witnessed the shooting but said they had not yet spoken to investigators told The Argonaut that one of the officers fired at Glenn as Glenn reached into his back pocket. They said the shooting occurred after officers ordered Glenn to produce identification.
“When LAPD showed up they asked to see this ID. When he reached into his back pocket, they shot him for no reason,” said Elana Frey, a student at the nonprofit Venice Youth Build’s John Muir Charter School who had met Glenn through Safe Place for Youth, a nonprofit homeless resource center in Venice.
Frey, 18, said she witnessed the confrontation and shooting while standing between cars parked in front of the Townhouse.
“He was panhandling in front of [the Townhouse] saying he needed money to feed his dog. Even though he was really drunk he wanted to feed his dog. The bouncer asked him to please leave and he said he had the right to be there,” Frey recalled.
Frey said Glenn also initially declined to cooperate with police, arguing he had done nothing wrong.
“Brendon, he had a [disagreeable] tone, but he was not acting in an aggressive way,” she said.
Paris Edwards, who affiliated with Glenn and others who call the beach home, also said Glenn appeared emotionally distraught on Tuesday night. Edwards said he was on the sidewalk a short distance west of The Townhouse when the shooting occurred and that Glenn “reached into his back pocket and that was when the shot was fired — pop.”
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that sources who have reviewed video footage of the altercation say the tape shows Glenn struggling with the officers and being subdued before one officer moves away and fires at Glen after Glenn began struggling again with the second officer. The Times’ unnamed sources say the footage does not clearly show any action by Glenn that would explain why the officer discharged his weapon.
“We have a copy of the video in my office and are breaking it down slide by slide,” Bustamante said during the community meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary.
Others described Glenn as being in a turbulent emotional state prior to the shooting.
Glenn became visibly upset after placing a call to his mother just before 8:30 p.m., said Timothy Pardue, manager of The P.A.D (Protection and Direction), a nonprofit homeless resource center a few doors down from where the shooting occurred.
“When [Glenn] would drink he would decide he wanted to go home, but the next day he’d be like, ‘I’m in Venice, man. I got it made. I know that night he called his mom. He was pretty upset. He was crying,” Pardue said. “Brandon comes in on a daily basis. He gets food and uses the computer. He was looking for a job so we helped him put a resume together.
The P.A.D., affiliated with The Teen Project, hosted the evening vigil for Glenn.
Jared Essig, a Venice street musician, said he did not witness the shooting but had encountered Glenn on the same block less than an hour before he died.
“He was wanting to talk to me about his life and his problems. He was depressed. He was about ready to cry. … He was getting drunk, but [said] he wanted to get sober; he wanted to stop,” Essig said. “It’s a shame some people don’t know how to deal with a young man whose maybe drunk and a little bit confused.”
Police involved in the altercation with Glenn were not wearing body cameras, Soboroff said.
“We can’t wait for the day all of our officers get body cameras,” Soboroff said. “We want the truth.”
Girmala said that the officers have been removed from field duty pending investigation of the shooting.
Several people who attended the meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary accused officials of trying to placate community anger without giving much information in return.
“People want answers. They want solution. They’re tired of the rhetoric, and they’re tired of these staged events,” said Venice community activist Nick Antonicello, frequently a critic a city hall.
“We’re here to listen, not to be talking heads or pontificate. … This is at the top of Chief [Charlie] Beck’s agenda, and it will remain so until we get answers,” Girmala told the crowd.
“This is the first of what we hope are a series of meetings. We took no offense and had not animosity toward anything said here because we understand that emotions are high and the sensitivity is so raw,” Girmala said later.
A community vigil is planned for noon Saturday at the site where Glenn died, according to Facebook posts.
See Thursday’s print edition of The Argonaut for expanded coverage.