The police video shows an officer shooting a black man in the back

Inside the L.A. County Fed: Humbled by racist leak, fearful more tapes might be out there

By David Walsh

6 Min Read

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest and busiest municipal government, is reeling over a leak of surveillance video showing a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man. The officer has since killed another black man with a similar gun.

The police video was leaked to the news media by an anonymous source. The man the officer killed, Stephon Clark, was known to police for drug dealing. Many in the Black Lives Matter movement have criticized the leaked video as part of police racism and violence against black people.

The footage shows Clark with his hands up when the officer ordered him down, then he turns, turns back and shoots him in the back. The officer, identified as former Los Angeles Police Department officer Christopher Dorner, who is white, said Clark reached for a gun in his waistband when Dorner ordered him to drop it.

The video, released by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, showed the officer confronting Clark at knifepoint in a parking lot where he was selling cocaine. The officer said Clark had a gun in his waistband and reached for it. When he fired, Dorner shot back in self-defense.

Dorner was killed by a police sniper after refusing to surrender and being cornered two days after the police killings in suburban Aurora, Illinois. Two other officers and Clark were taken into custody and charged with multiple crimes.

The Los Angeles County Fed, a municipal agency responsible for collecting taxes, is now examining the tapes and analyzing the police department’s policies and procedures.

“This is a serious matter and we’ll cooperate fully,” Los Angeles County Finance Director Mark Hartenstein, a former Treasury Department official, told Reuters. “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I believe in facts.”

Hartenstein said the agency would release more of the tapes to the public.

“The video… shows that Dorner had committed a crime before being arrested and taken to police headquarters,” the finance director said, adding the tape showed Dorner had “a pattern of behavior.”

The tapes are critical, he added, for understanding the police department’s policies and procedures. One is likely to show that an officer cannot fire in self-defense if the suspect is armed.


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