LA Council grills Chief on police killing of homeless woman FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 5 Jun 1999 17:22:11 -0700 (PDT)


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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/1999/06/05/state1748ED
T0047.DTL&type=printable
FWD  Associated Press - Saturday, June 5, 1999

City Council grills LAPD chief on fatal shooting of homeless woman

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In a closed meeting with the City Council, Police Chief
Bernard Parks said two of 13 people who witnessed the fatal police shooting
of a mentally ill homeless woman have contradicted the officers' version of
the incident.

One witness told investigators that the woman was shot in the back, and
another said the woman was shot while she was on the ground, according to a
``confidential fact sheet'' presented to council members by the chief.

However, police officials have said most of the other witnesses and
physical evidence, such as the autopsy report, don't support those
assertions.

Margaret Mitchell, 54, was shot May 21 when she allegedly attacked two
bicycle officers with a screwdriver. Mitchell was black. The officer who
fired the shot, Edward Larrigan, 27, is Hispanic and his partner, Kathy
Clark, 29, is Asian-American and Hispanic.

The confrontation erupted when the officers stopped Mitchell to check on
whether the shopping cart she was pushing was stolen.

During the closed session Friday, council members grilled Parks on the
shooting, which some police critics claim was racially motivated.

Parks, who has dismissed the notion that the incident was fueled by
bigotry, explained the LAPD's policies on the use of force and how officers
are trained to handle homeless and mentally ill people.

Investigators are still searching for a motorist who was stopped by a
motorcycle officer across the street from the shooting to determine if he
witnessed anything, the chief said.

``I think everybody finds that to be quite disturbing what has happened,''
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Daily News of Los Angeles. ``It is
not a very pleasant matter at all. And I think it cannot be established at
this time that it was a good shooting.''

Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg would not comment on what was discussed at the
meeting. However, she did wonder why Mrs. Mitchell was even stopped by the
two officers.

``There was just a lot of concern that there appears to be a position taken
by the department that if you have a shopping cart that this is a criminal
matter that should be pursued,'' she said.

According to the fact sheet, Mrs. Mitchell refused to stop when asked by
officers.

The officers ``attempted to verbalize and calm her'' but she ``became angry
and armed herself'' with the screwdriver, according to the fact sheet,
contents of which were published in Saturday's Los Angeles Times.

A motorist stopped to try to get her to drop the weapon. When Larrigan
tried to get him to stand back, Mrs. Mitchell fled.

The officers pursued. ``Suddenly, Mitchell stopped, turned ... toward the
officers and again threatened the officers with the screwdriver,''
according to the fact sheet.

She was told to drop the screwdriver, but she did not. To ``avoid being
stabbed,'' Larrigan crouched down and fired one round at Mrs. Mitchell, the
report said.

The shooting remained under investigation by police, the FBI and the U.S.
attorney's office.

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