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Video Shows LAPD Officer Shooting 45-Year-Old Man Holding Cell Phone on Martin Luther King Blvd

LAPD officer shoots 45 year old man holding cell phone

On the eve of the 30-year anniversary of the L.A. Uprising, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released video footage of an LAPD officer shooting Jose Barrera, a 45-year-old man holding a cell phone, last month in South L.A.

In an edited video released by the department, a 911 caller tells a dispatcher in Spanish, “There is a man here with a handgun and he pointed it at people.” The caller describes Barrera as a 20-25 year-old man wearing a black shirt and hat. “I am looking at him and he is pointing it at people,” the caller says later. “I am watching him. He takes it out and points it at people then he hides it again.”

Later in the call, when the dispatcher asks if Barrera is holding “a small handgun,” the caller responds, “I don't know but it looks like… I passed next to him and it looked like it had a base, but I don’t know what it could be.”

Digital in-car video from a patrol car, as well as body-worn camera footage, shows LAPD Officer Tatiana Bohorquez driving while her partner, Manuel Rios, sits in the passenger seat, as they both receive information over their police radio. “He does have a handgun and he’s firing at a house right now,” an officer says over the radio.

Later, Rios spots Barrera walking west on Martin Luther King Blvd. “You might have to shoot, you might have to shoot,” Bohorquez says anxiously as they pull up to Barrera, while Rios lets the passenger side door of the car hang open and he clutches his pistol.

A split second after Bohorquez brings the patrol car to a stop, Rios immediately fires a volley of rounds at Barrera, striking him at least once, while still partially seated in the vehicle. CCTV footage shows Barrera lift his cell phone up towards a car parked on Martin Luther King Blvd. seconds before he is shot. Barrera crumbles to the ground. Rios then fully exits the vehicle and puts in an “officer needs help” call.

“When patrol officers arrived to the area, they saw Barrera on the sidewalk of Martin Luther King Blvd. pointing what they believed was a handgun at an occupant of a nearby vehicle which was stopped,” LAPD Captain Kelly Muniz explains in the video released by police. The video only featured body-worn camera footage from Rios. It’s unclear if Bohorquez was wearing a body camera and if she shot at Barrera. A public information officer with the LAPD could not confirm how many officers fired at Barrera.

About 10 minutes after the shooting, body-worn camera footage shows at least six officers taking Barrera into custody. “What I do sir? What I do sir?” Barrera asks calmly as he’s handcuffed. At the scene, LAPD officers recovered a cell phone with a black protective case. No gun was found on or near Barrera but he was booked for assault with a deadly weapon involving a firearm, before being transported to a hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound. Barrera survived the shooting and was released from custody. According to the LAPD, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Barrera.

The Barrera shooting shares similarities to other recent police shootings in which cops mistook non-lethal objects for firearms.

In March of 2018, two Sacramento police officers fatally shot Stephon Clark in his grandmother's backyard, because they assumed he was armed with a handgun, police said. No gun was found, only a cell phone.

More recently, in January 2020, LAPD officer Colin Langsdale fatally shot Victor Valencia, similarly within seconds of arriving at the scene. Valencia, a 31-year-old with a history of mental illness, was holding a part belonging to a bicycle. 

Prosecutors in Sacramento declined to file charges against the officers who killed Clark and LAPD Officer Langsdale has not been charged with any crimes related to the Valencia shooting as of publishing.

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