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‘It Was Madness,’ Says Brother of Man Killed By LAPD ‘For Holding a Plastic Fork’

“All we want to do is show that police aren’t properly trained in dealing with people with mental illness,” said Jason’s cousin, Carly Illeck. “And that a bipolar episode does not warrant a fatal gunshot.”

11:48 AM PST on February 13, 2024

    A portrait of Jason Maccani.

    A portrait of Jason Maccani.

    When Mike Maccani’s little brother, Jason Maccani, didn’t show up for a planned sibling get-together on Sunday and his calls began going to voicemail, he grew concerned.

    Then Monday morning came around, and nobody had still heard from Jason, so Mike filed a missing persons report with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

    That evening, he received an unexpected call from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner. Mike was driving when the coroner suggested he pull over.

    “I knew it was going to be about Jay,” Mike says of the coroner’s call.

    “Jay was killed by the police,” Mike recalls hearing the other person on the line tell him over the phone, offering scant details about the incident. “The coroner just said the police responded to a call. He told me non-lethal weapons weren’t effective, and they shot him.”

    Jason was holding a “stick,” the coroner claimed. In a thread on X, LAPD similarly suggested that Jason was armed with a “stick” during the fatal encounter with police.

    After getting off the phone with the coroner, Mike had to endure the painful task of calling his two siblings, parents, and three aunts one by one to inform them that Jason had been killed by police.

    Then he drove home. 

    “I had to just, like, suck it up and make the ten-minute drive home,” he said later. After he walked through his front door, he “crumbled” in his partner's “arms and cried.”

    A day later, Mike learned that Jason wasn’t holding a stick; he was holding a “white plastic fork.” 

    In an updated news release, the LAPD confirmed that Jason was holding a “white plastic fork” moments before he was fatally shot, and not a stick as the police initially suggested.

    “When I was originally told he had a stick, I was already like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Mike said during an interview with L.A. TACO last week. When he discovered it was a plastic fork, he became so mad he “couldn’t see straight.”

    “It was anger. It was madness,” Mike said. “I’d be more scared of a closed fist [than a plastic fork].”

    Jason Alex, Erika, and Michael Maccani stand together with big smiles on their faces, at Erika's wedding. Jason, Alex and Erika are all sticking out their tongues.
    Jason, Alex, Erika, and Michael Maccani stand together at Erika's wedding.

    According to authorities, LAPD officers were called to a “warehouse” in Skid Row on February 3 at 2:14 PM after Jason allegedly entered the business and refused to leave. This was the day before Jason was supposed to meet up with his siblings in Long Beach. 

    After police arrived, the business owner insisted that the officers arrest Jason, according to a claim made by LAPD Chief Michel Moore last week during a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting.

    Officers shot Jason with a “non-lethal” 40mm projectile launcher and a beanbag shotgun while trying to take him into custody, after he allegedly "charged" at the officers with a white plastic fork in hand. Both munitions were ineffective, Chief Moore said. 

    When Jason allegedly grabbed one of the officers' beanbag shotguns, another officer shot him, according to Chief Moore. Afterward, Jason was transported to a local hospital by Los Angeles Fire Department personnel, where he was pronounced dead.

    On Friday evening, the LAPD identified the officer who killed Jason as Caleb Garcia-Alamilla, a recently hired officer assigned to LAPD’s central division.

    During last week’s police commission meeting, Chief Moore said that after reviewing body-worn camera footage of the incident, he has “concerns” about the fatal shooting.

    Afterward, Moore told L.A. TACO that he expects the body-worn camera footage to be released to the public “within 30 days, potentially sooner.”

    In California, law enforcement agencies have up to 45 days to release body-worn camera footage of police shootings. Generally, the LAPD releases video footage within the 30 to 45-day window.

    Last Tuesday, police commissioners and members of the public expressed outrage over the shooting, as well as statements made by representatives of the LAPD following the deadly shooting.

    In an interview with KTLA held after the shooting, LAPD spokesperson Lieutenant Letisia Ruiz claimed that “any object can cause harm, depending on how it’s used,” referring to the white plastic fork that Jason was carrying, which at the time of the interview was described as “a stick.”

    In recent years, the LAPD has faced criticism for shooting people who are sometimes in the midst of a mental health crisis and are holding objects, including butane lighters, tools, replica pistols, and other objects that police misidentify as weapons.

    In the wake of Jason’s killing, activists are again drawing attention to other recent police shootings in Skid Row.

    Not Just a Man with a Plastic Fork

    One of four Maccani siblings, Jason lived with his aunt and uncle in Huntington Beach, according to three family members.

    “He was dedicated to Uber,” Mike recalls. “He recently did his 15,000th ride. That’s a lot of time behind the wheel.” 

    Jason was a “family guy,” according to Mike.

    When their grandfather, who suffered from memory loss, needed help, Jason was there to take care of him. He did the same thing for his grandmother as she aged. And more recently, his father, after he had knee surgery. 

    Jason Maccani sits in a chair while visiting his spouse at the hospital.
    Jason Maccani visiting his spouse at the hospital.

    “He wasn’t just a man with a plastic fork,” says Jason’s spouse, who does not feel comfortable having their name appear in this story due to their job and family dynamics. “He was a partner, he was a brother, he was a cousin, he was a son.”

    The two met when Jason was 15 years old, and they were married in 2021 before growing apart and briefly becoming “estranged.” In November, they reconnected and rekindled their love.

    Jason spent the last three weeks of his life driving between Orange County to take care of his spouse—who's been “in and out” of the hospital—and Ventura County, where his father was recovering from surgery, according to his spouse. 

    “Jay always came into my life when there was some kind of darkness, and he always brought lightness,” she said during an emotional phone interview with L.A. TACO. “Jason was the human equivalent of sunshine,” she said repeatedly during the hour-long conversation.

    “I hope [the officer that killed Jason] knows what he took from me, what he took from his family.”

    Jason Maccani does a headstand yoga pose while dogs kiss his face.
    Jason Maccani does a "headstand" while dogs kiss his face.

    Jason’s family members all said he occasionally struggled with mental health issues. Every few years or so, he would have “some sort of a mental health episode,” Mike told L.A. TACO. 

    But his family never knew him to be violent or abuse drugs, as the LAPD and some media reports have suggested. 

    “The way that they reported on this… it’s slander,” says Jason’s spouse, who admits she made the mistake of reading a few stories about his killing. “They’re portraying him like he was just some homeless drug addict.”

    “What also is sad to me is I believe we will get justice easier because of our white privilege,” she says. “We have the means to fight them. I’m not advocating just for Jason. I’m advocating for justice for everybody that’s been killed by LAPD.”

    “All we want to do is show that police aren’t properly trained in dealing with people with mental illness,” said Jason’s cousin, Carly Illeck. “And that a bipolar episode does not warrant a fatal gunshot.”

    “Makes me sad because I am sure this happens all the time to people in that area who don’t have an army of a family who love and care about them, so it’s easily swept under the rug,” Illeck says.

    In the week leading up to Jason’s death, Mike’s father let him know that Jason was having another episode.

    On Sunday, February 4, Mike and his three siblings planned to meet up for a sibling get-together. They had tried to meet up the previous Sunday, but Jason had wanted to watch football with their father, so they rescheduled.

    It wasn’t unusual not to hear from Jason for a couple of days, and they wanted to give him the space he needed to figure things out, so at first, it didn’t concern them when he didn’t show up. 

    The three other siblings spent the day going to a drag brunch at Hamburger Mary’s and the aquarium in Long Beach. Throughout the day, they were sending warm messages and selfies to their brother, Jason. 

    “We’d really like you here,” Mike recalls texting Jason.

    “Jay didn’t make it,” Mike said.

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