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The LAPD Presented A Photo Of A ‘Handgun’ After A Fatal Shooting Yesterday; It Was Actually A ‘Pellet Gun’

2:54 PM PDT on July 28, 2022

Lt. Ruiz presents a photo of the alleged "handgun."

Lt. Ruiz presents a photo of the alleged “handgun.”

More than four hours after the LAPD shot and killed a man on Wednesday morning, just up the street from the OG Carnitas Michoacan on Broadway in Lincoln Heights, they offered few details about the shooting. While addressing four reporters and camera people, some of whom had been waiting hours for an update, Lieutenant Letisia Ruiz, a spokesperson for the LAPD, alleged that the man “produced a handgun” and pointed it at officers before they returned fire. At the end of the briefing, Lt. Ruiz held up a digital photo printed on an 8 x 12 sheet of paper of the alleged “handgun.” However, she could not confirm if the gun was real or not. "It's still under investigation," she said when pressed on the issue.

Two hours later, L.A. TACO confirmed with LAPD Chief Michel Moore that the alleged “handgun” described by Lt. Ruiz was not in fact a firearm. “I’m told the item is a replica handgun (possible air pistol),” Chief Moore wrote in an email. Moore did not respond to a followup email asking approximately when he was briefed on the shooting. Roughly seven hours after the fatal shooting, the LAPD publicly acknowledged that the reported firearm was a “pellet gun” on Twitter. As of publishing they have not posted a news release on their official website.

Lt. Ruiz presents a photo of the alleged "handgun."

During a follow up interview this morning, Lt. Ruiz said that at the time of the press conference yesterday, it was not confirmed that the handgun was a “pellet gun.” The Lieutenant also defended the decision to show reporters the photo of the alleged handgun before confirming if it was real or not. “I don’t believe [it was] misleading,” she said. “Maybe the information wasn’t provided as quickly as citizens want but there’s a process.”

“There’s no effort to hide anything,” she said.

Wednesday’s shooting was the second in the Hollenbeck Division (which includes Lincoln Heights) in six days. There have been at least six LAPD shootings in the past month and 23 this year, as of publishing. In less than two weeks, at least three men were shot at by police, who assumed they were carrying handguns, when in fact they were carrying other non-lethal objects.

In Leimert Park, Jermaine Petite, was shot while holding a car “actuator.” Initially, a spokesperson for the LAPD described the auto part as a “weapon” though.

Yesterday, a couple hours before the Lincoln Heights shooting, Chief Moore revealed during a weekly civilian oversight meeting that at least one Foothill Division officer shot at a man who they believed was carrying a pistol. However, no firearm was found at the scene. “So this is an investigation in which the individual when the officer involved shooting occured it appeared to the officers that he was holding a firearm, we did not recover a firearm from the scene but we didn’t recover a black L-shaped lighter that we believe was mistaken for this firearm at this point,” Chief Moore said.

Wednesday’s shooting in Lincoln Heights occured at around 11 in the morning, according to Lt. Ruiz. “A central traffic officer was conducting a traffic collision investigation on Broadway and Avenue 18. He was approached by a citizen who was reporting that a male Hispanic had a handgun and directed the officer towards the direction of the suspect.” The traffic officer reportedly called for backup. When backup arrived “they made contact with the suspect” and shot him, after he allegedly pointed what they believed to be a gun at them, Lt. Ruiz claimed without presenting evidence other than the photo of the reported “handgun.”

The LAPD has not yet released any body-worn camera footage of the shooting. But legally, police agencies in California are generally required to release body-worn camera footage and other relevant video surveillance footage within 45 days of a shooting. 

Hours after the shooting, Lt. Ruiz could not answer questions about how much time lapsed between when officers arrived and when the man was shot or how many officers responded to the scene. She also couldn’t confirm if the man was unhoused or suffering from mental health issues.

Joey Scott, an independent journalist who was at the scene, interviewed a local resident who said that her romantic partner had a conversation with the man just before the fatal shooting. The woman’s partner reportedly knew the gun was not real and attempted to take it away from him. Moments later police opened fire on the man with the pellet gun, killing him.

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