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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Police officer who shot mentally ill Korean-American man identified

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The police officer who shot and killed Yong Yang, a Korean-American man with mental illness, has been identified. The officer reportedly has a prior history of shooting mentally ill person just three years earlier.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) identified the officer who shot and killed Yong Yang on May 2 as Officer Andres Lopez (Serial Number 43137) of the Olympic Police Station. Earlier in the day, authorities said that Chief Dominic Choi had authorized the release of the name of the officer involved in the shooting.

Andres Lopez

Lopez was reportedly recruited in 2017 and is currently serving as a Police Officer II.

Lopez had previously been investigated for shooting a mentally ill suspect on March 23, 2021.

On that day, an officer assisting a citizen outside the main entrance of the Olympic Police Station in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic noticed a black male with what appeared to be a gun and called for police backup, according to a statement released by the LAPD at the time.

Arriving at the station in his patrol car, Lopez ordered the suspect to put the gun down.

The suspect then pointed his finger at his head and said, “They’re in my head. They’re trying to hurt my head.”

At that point, the other officer said, “I can’t help you if that (the gun) is in your hand,” but the suspect said, “Shoot me then.”

The suspect then pointed the gun at the officers, at which point Officer Lopez opened fire.

The suspect was shot in the lower torso and transported to a local hospital where he underwent surgery and was pronounced alive.

The suspect, later identified as Nakiea Brown, 35, was found to have an “imitation firearm” in his possession. Notably, the suspect had multiple contacts with the LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit and other outside agencies for mental illness prior to the incident.

The LA County District Attorney’s Office, which investigated the case, said in a report last October that Lopez acted in self-defense to defend himself and others.

However, apart from the DA’s announcement, Lopez has since been demoted. He was a Police Officer III at the time, the rank just below Sergeant, but he was a Police Officer II, according to LAPD’s announcement on May 9.

It’s possible that the shooting may have influenced the LAPD’s internal administrative actions.

Demotions in the LAPD are reportedly based on a variety of factors, including misconduct, underperformance, violation of department policies or procedures, and failure to meet promotion requirements.

BY SUAH JANG, HOONSIK WOO [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]