LAPD releases video footage of fatal police shooting in Mar Vista, but officer’s body camera wasn’t activated when he discharged his gun
By Gary Walker
LAPD-compiled video footage taken before, during and after the Jan. 11 fatal officer-involved shooting on Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista depicts the suspect behaving erratically and brandishing what appeared to be a handgun, later discovered to be a modified bicycle part that resembled a handgun.
The 40-minute Critical Incident Community Briefing, posted to YouTube on Jan. 27, relies heavily on local business surveillance camera footage of 31-year-old Victor Valencia as he moves in the direction of LAPD Sgt. Colin Langsdale’s police cruiser and the moment after Valencia is felled by gunfire.
Multiple 911 calls included in the compilation describe Valencia as “unstable” or “erratic” and “waving” a gun or “pointing [what appeared to be a gun] at people and making bizarre gestures.” Two of the callers misidentified Valencia as African-American after dispatchers asked for a description.
The video doesn’t include body camera footage or audio of the shooting — Langsdale, who responded to the call from the LAPD Pacific Division Station on Culver Boulevard, did not activate his body camera until the shooting occurred, LAPD Capt. Gisselle Espinosa says in the video. Langsdale’s body camera footage starts from when Valencia is on the ground, and audio does not pick up for two minutes while the camera is booting up to full functionality, according to LAPD.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who made the video footage public several weeks earlier than the standard 45 days, wrote in an email that Langsdale “should have ‘powered on’ the device when he left the station, turning ‘on’ [the body camera] if he
was assigned the call or upon arrival at the scene, whichever occurred first.”
Body camera images and audio shows officers reluctant to approach the downed Valencia, and about two minutes pass while officers call for a ballistic shield. It takes several more minutes for officers to encircle Valencia, seek to identify and secure his weapon, and handcuff Valencia prior to firefighter paramedics arriving to perform CPR.
“Took them forever to get him, they let him die,” Sara Cervantes, whom the news website L.A. Taco identifies as Valencia’s cousin, wrote on Twitter, adding that officer interactions during that delay “looked like a f***ing training video.” Cervantes told L.A. Taco that Valencia had previously sought treatment for schizophrenia and leaves behind a two-year-old son.
Real-time and slow-motion surveillance video shows Valencia moving erratically, waving the bicycle part in his left hand and at one point appearing to talk to himself outside the nearby Shell Gas Station on the north side of Venice Boulevard. At one point he appears to point the object but the video does not show if it was pointed at a person or anything else in particular.
Another camera angle shows Valencia on the sidewalk walking toward the 405 Freeway underpass and Tuller Avenue, where Langsdale had stationed his police cruiser to confront Valencia. About seven seconds after Valencia walks out of the frame, bystanders begin to flee in the opposite direction. Five seconds later, Valencia falls backward into the frame and onto the ground as gun smoke drifts into the frame from the direction of Langsdale. A zoomed-in and slowed-down replay of Valencia hitting the ground shows his left hand grasping the bicycle part that several 911 callers had described as a gun.
The board of the Los Angeles Police Protective League has come out in support of Moore releasing videos early, “provided it does not jeopardize the integrity of the overall investigation,” according to an email from the board.
“In this case, the early release of the video validates that the initial 911 calls that describe the suspect with a handgun, the surveillance video captures the suspect wielding what clearly appears to be a handgun and photographs after the incident depict a black metal object that responding officers believed to be a handgun. Officers reacted to what they believed to be an armed suspect that posed a threat to the safety of nearby pedestrians and the officers,” the board’s email continues.
Police initially believed that Valencia was a transient associated with a homeless encampment under the 405 Freeway, but Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner – Coroner spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said that the office’s records do not indicate he was homeless.
According to Moore, Langsdale is not on administrative leave while LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, which handles all use of deadly force cases, investigates the shooting.
LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said in the video compilation that the shooting investigation could take up to a year to complete.
Watch the video compilation on the Los Angeles Police Department’s YouTube channel or at argonautnews.com.