While the Los Angeles Police Department has come to the defense of officers in the fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect in Playa Vista Jan. 14, some community members have called for answers as to whether non-lethal measures could have been taken to subdue the victim.
Following the death of Playa Vista resident Reggie Doucet, Jr., 25, the LAPD issued a statement saying that two officers were “fighting for their lives” as they attempted to apprehend the half-naked suspect. The incident took place at about 3:30 a.m. in the 5200 block of Crescent Park West after Doucet arrived in a taxi from Hollywood.
He reportedly did not pay the taxi fare and after an argument with the driver, the suspect removed his clothes and began running around the street, yelling, said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith of the West Bureau. Two officers who were called to the scene regarding a disturbance attempted to contact the suspect but he ran away and put on boxer shorts, police said.
That officers again tried to detain Doucet but he ran to an alcove outside an apartment building where a struggle ensued. During the struggle, the suspect allegedly assaulted both officers and reached for a gun of one of the officers, who fatally shot Doucet to stop the attack, police said. That officer, who has 17 months with the LAPD, and the second officer, who has served for five years, were treated for their injuries at a local hospital.
The LAPD said the Force Investigation Division is still early into the investigation of the officer involved shooting. Though it is too soon to make any determinations regarding the case, the department said it is open to reviewing policies and procedures of such incidents.
“The LAPD is continuously looking at best practices in policing in regards to policies, procedures and tactics involving the handling of calls related to persons initially perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or having mental health illness issues,” the department statement said. “How LAPD officers deal with those persons in response to crisis situations, and the tactics officers use, are two areas that are constantly being reviewed.”
But Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said some of Doucet’s friends and neighbors have expressed outrage at the actions by police. Hutchinson and other civil rights leaders met at a vigil at the shooting site Jan. 15 where they called on LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to review tactics, procedures and policies in the use of deadly force against unarmed suspects.
“The shooting never should’ve happened and it was certainly unnecessary. There are other ways to handle a situation like that,” said Hutchinson, adding that the non-lethal ways of subduing a suspect were not used.
“Any time you are dealing with someone who may have emotional issues or challenges there are established policies and procedures that LAPD has. Were they used or violated – these are the questions we are asking and we expect answers.”
Hutchinson noted that Doucet had no criminal record, was a college graduate, worked as a model and played college football. A biography of Doucet on the Middle Tennessee State University football website said he previously played one season at El Camino College and was a track and football star at North Monterey County High School.
Hutchinson said he could not explain Doucet’s actions prior to the shooting, only that “something went terribly wrong.”
“I spoke to the neighbors and not one neighbor had a negative thing to say about him. Not only were they perplexed but they were outraged,” Hutchinson said.
Chris Ellison, a Playa Vista resident, told reporters that he recently saw Doucet, who worked as a physical trainer, and he did not appear troubled. Ellison said he was disturbed at the incident and added that he never seen Doucet intoxicated.
“He was a really upstanding man who was trying to do something with his life,” Ellison said of Doucet, the father of a little girl.
Another local resident, Suzanne Sudman, said she cannot “wrap my mind around” the shooting of Doucet.
“I’m concerned because this small Westside community may not ask why and soon forget the events that tragically occurred. What happened to tasers and pepper spray?” Sudman said.
In response to Hutchinson’s call for an LAPD probe of the case, Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, reiterated that the officers involved were fighting for their lives against Doucet. Weber stressed that officers have been killed by naked suspects, and when suspects pose a threat to an officer’s life, they are solely responsible for the outcome.
“In this case, naked or not, when Mr. Doucet tried to take an officer’s gun away from him, he set in motion the chain of events that sadly led to his death. An officer who loses his gun to a suspect, loses his life,” Weber stated.
“It is disappointing that community leaders immediately and predictably turn to questioning and trying to blame the LAPD, when officers have to respond with force and sometimes lethal force to protect their lives.”
The LAPD said it educates and trains officers how to deal with potentially threatening suspects through in-service tactical courses, mandated annual standardized training and training bulletins.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he could not comment on the circumstances of the incident but called Doucet’s death a “tragedy” and said the police protocols will be addressed in the investigation.
“The overall issues about training and experience are issues that will be coming out as (Beck) does his investigation,” the councilman said.
Hutchinson said the Urban Policy Roundtable plans to meet with both Beck and LAPD Inspector General Nicole Berson to discuss the policies and procedures.
“The meeting with the inspector general is the first step in fulfilling our demand for a full, thorough and fast investigation into the Doucet killing,” he said.
The department said the investigation will be reviewed by the chief of police, the office of the inspector general and Board of Police Commissioners for compliance with the LAPD’s use of force policy. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Justice System Integrity Division will also conduct a comprehensive review.