Chief pledges full investigation of LAPD shooting of homeless

Tom Boland (
Thu, 27 May 1999 14:51:04 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - May 27, 1999


     Deborah Hastings, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Amid expressions of ``outrage'' by black community
leaders over the shooting death of a homeless woman, Police Chief Bernard
Parks pledged a ``full and comprehensive investigation'' into the killing.

Parks made the promise during a two-hour closed-door meeting Wednesday at
police headquarters, said Danny Bakewell, Director of the Brotherhood
Crusade. Also at the meeting were representatives of the NAACP and the
Nation of Islam.

``We don't consider a screwdriver a deadly weapon,'' Bakewell said. ``Why
did they even stop this woman in the first place?''

Margaret L. Mitchell, a 54-year-old grandmother whose mental illness drove
her onto the streets, was stopped by bicycle beat cops and asked if the
shopping cart she was pushing was stolen.

Friday's shooting has prompted investigations by the FBI and the city's
Police Commission.

Officers Edward Larrigan, 27, and Kathy Clark, 29, drew their weapons after
Mrs. Mitchell pushed the cart at them and walked away, police said. The
officers, seeking to calm the agitated woman, confronted her again,
according to LAPD Cmdr. David Kalish.

Mrs. Mitchell lunged at Larrigan with a screwdriver, forcing him to jump
away and fall on one knee, Kalish said. Larrigan then shot Mrs. Mitchell in
the chest. She died a short time later. The Wilshire Division officers have
been reassigned to detective training, Kalish said.

Contrary to earlier reports that the officers who shot the black woman are
white, LAPD spokesman Lt. Anthony Alba said Wednesday that Larrigan is of
Hispanic descent and Clark is Asian-American.

Bakewell appealed for calm during the investigations. But he said the
shooting death has pushed rage in the black community to ``an all-time

``There is a tremendous discomfort on the part of the community that things
are happening to black people and are now moving from black men to black

Although Parks has fired more than 50 officers in the last year, Bakewell
said, ``there is a holdover of a cowboy mentality, certainly a racist
mentality'' in the department.

Parks on Tuesday evening gave the Police Commission a preliminary report of
the incident, saying it is being investigated, but appears to be within the
department's officer-involved-shooting guidelines. The commission will
determine if that is true.

The dead woman's son, Richard Mitchell, has hired Beverly Hills civil
rights attorney Leo Terrell, who demanded an independent autopsy. The
coroner's office said Mrs. Mitchell died from a single shot fired at an
upward trajectory, which entered her chest and exited her back.

Terrell claims he has three witnesses who say Mrs. Mitchell, a fixture on
trendy La Brea Avenue, posed no threat when she was shot at the
intersection of Fourth Street and La Brea.

It was the second straight day Bakewell was involved in protests over
police shootings of black women. He joined about 350 protesters Tuesday to
express anger over the Mitchell shooting and a recent decision by Riverside
County's district attorney not to prosecute officers in another death.

In December officers fired 23 bullets at Tyisha Miller, killing the young
woman sitting inside a locked car with a gun in her lap. Police say she
appeared unconscious but then sat up and reached for the weapon.


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