LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Police Department defended two officers who fatally shot a naked man they said tried to take their guns, while community activists questioned the use of deadly force.
The officers were “fighting for their lives” while they struggled with Reginald Doucet Jr. after he stripped and caused an early morning disturbance in the Playa Vista area, police union president Paul Weber, said in a statement Saturday.
During the struggle Friday, the 25-year-old Doucet repeatedly punched both officers in the face and head and, at one point, tried to take one of the officer’s guns, police said. At that point, that officer shot Doucet, who was unarmed, police said.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a prominent civil rights activist, questioned why officers couldn’t have used non-lethal means to subdue Doucet.
“Is it always going to be a situation where you’re going to use deadly force? Because if so, that’s a problem,” said Hutchinson, who heads the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. He attended a vigil at the shooting site Saturday.
Hutchinson called on police Chief Charlie Beck to review the department’s training and tactics in dealing with unarmed suspects, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Weber called it “disappointing” that community leaders were questioning the actions of the police. When Doucet reached for the officer’s gun, he “set in motion the chain of events that sadly led to his death,” said Weber, head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
“An officer who loses his gun to a suspect, loses his life,” he added.
Doucet, a former college football player and Playa Vista resident, was naked and behaving erratically when he was confronted by officers around 3 a.m. Friday. As officers attempted to talk to him, but he ran off to an area where he had left his boxer shorts.
The officers tried a second time to speak to Doucet, but he ran to a nearby apartment complex, police said.
When they tried a third time to detain Doucet in the doorway of the apartment complex, he attacked both officers, police said.
During the ensuing struggle he was shot and later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Chris Ellison, Doucet’s neighbor and former agent, told the Times he was shocked by the incident, including Doucet’s alleged behavior.
“What bothers me is that if he was naked, they knew for a fact that he didn’t have any weapons on him,” Ellison said. “Were the police really getting whooped that bad that they needed to shoot him twice? They can’t pull out a billy club? They can’t Tase him? They have to shoot him?”
The two officers were also wounded, one to his ankle and face and the other to his jaw and head. Two other officers received minor injuries when their patrol car crashed en route to the scene, police said.
The officer who shot Doucet had been with the LAPD for 17 months, and the other officer was a 5-year force veteran, police said.
Doucet was 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds when he played defensive back at Middle Tennessee State University, according to his biography there.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)