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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Family sought help, but police fatally shot mentally ill man

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On May 2, police shot and killed a mentally ill Korean-American man in his 40s in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Family members claim that this was an overreaction by the police, stating that they had called for assistance to transport the man to a treatment facility, but instead, the police ended up shooting him.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, officers were dispatched to a multifamily residence near Gramercy Place in Koreatown around 11 a.m., following a report of a man causing a disturbance.

“We received a call from a mental health clinician,” said LAPD Public Information Officer Bruce Borihanh, who noted that the responding officers confronted a man armed with a knife, leading to the fatal shooting. Borihanh also mentioned that the police had previously been called several times to address disturbances caused by the man’s mental health issues.

Relatives of a man killed in a police shooting in LA Koreatown grieve near the deceased’s home on May 2. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

Min Yang, the victim’s father, recounted that a mental health clinician had called the police to help transport his son, Yong Yang (40), to the hospital. “My family and I were waiting outside the home as directed by the officers,” he explained, noting that he had informed the arriving officers about his son’s condition and requested their assistance. “About seven officers then entered the house, and shortly after, we heard gunshots from inside,” the father added. He emphasized that the officers were aware of his son’s mental illness and were equipped with a Taser, suggesting that shooting him was a clear overreaction.

The police have not fully disclosed details on the shooting. When asked, Borihanh explained that officers are trained to open fire when a suspect’s behavior poses a sufficient threat.

The importance of releasing the body-cam footage from the incident is heightened as it could influence the scrutiny of police use-of-force regulations.
LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi said, “We will investigate this incident very carefully.” He emphasized that the officer-involved shooting policy hinges on an immediate threat, reasonable cause to respond, and, most importantly, the suspect’s behavior.

Choi expressed concern over the recent rise in officer-involved shootings when assuming office on March 1, as the LAPD had faced criticism for an increase in officer-involved shootings under former Chief Michael Moore.

The department, currently at its lowest staffing level in 20 years with approximately 8,908 officers, has been highlighted by LA Mayor Karen Bass, who aims to increase the force to 9,500 officers. Choi mentioned to the LA Times that the officer shortage contributes to internal tensions and potentially affects the rate of officer-involved shootings.

According to LAPD statistics, there have been more than nine officer-involved shootings this year, including four since Choi’s term began, with two resulting in fatalities. Choi is under significant pressure to reduce these incidents.

A recent officer-involved shooting on March 7, where a mentally ill man with a fake gun was killed after the confrontation escalated, sparked further criticism. Footage from the incident showed the officer continuing to fire after the man dropped the fake gun.

The response to the officer-involved shooting in Koreatown will be pivotal, especially given the circumstances: a mentally ill man was fatally shot while his family sought help. This incident necessitates a thorough investigation, highlighting the critical need for judicious actions by law enforcement in handling mental health crises.

By Mooyoung Lee   lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com