Officer shooting of homeless woman was "within policy", LAPD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 20:18:03 -0700 (PDT)

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Do you think the shooting incident reported below was justifiable homicide?
FWD  Associated Press - Wednesday, October 27, 1999


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police Chief Bernard Parks has determined that the
officer who shot a mentally ill homeless woman to death after she allegedly
lunged at him with a screwdriver used faulty tactics, but did not violate
department policy, according to a published report.

The Los Angeles Times reported the finding in today's editions, citing
unidentified sources. While the chief's report voiced administrative
disapproval of the tactics, the sources did not detail the flaws in the

A department spokesman was not available to comment on the chief's findings.

Margaret Mitchell, 54, was pulling a shopping cart containing her
belongings May 21 when two officers on bicycles asked her if the cart was
stolen. Police say Mitchell was uncooperative and lunged at them with a
screwdriver, prompting Officer Edward Larrigan, 27, to shoot her in defense.

Prior to the shooting, Mitchell allegedly threatened to kill the two
officers and then kept walking, police said. A motorist also tried
unsuccessfully to get Mitchell to put down the screwdriver.

When the officers again tried to stop her, police said she attempted to
slash them with the screwdriver. Larrigan, trying to jump out of the way,
lost his balance and shot her once in the chest because he felt threatened
by the woman, police said.

The shooting sparked protests over allegations of excessive force and
caused critics to question why the 5-foot-1-inch, 102-pound woman wasn't
subdued by nonlethal means, such as pepper spray.

Parks' findings mean Larrigan could face discipline over the shooting, the
Times said. Sources told the paper the chief found the action of Larrigan's
partner, Officer Kathy Clark -- who drew her weapon but did not fire -- to
also be within policy. If Parks' views are adopted, the 29-year-old officer
would have to receive training to improve her tactics, the paper said.

The newspaper also said the five-member civilian Police Commission, which
oversees the department, has visited the location on La Brea Avenue where
Mitchell was shot as part of their review of the incident -- a sign of
close scrutiny of the shooting investigation.

Commission staff members have also been listening to taped interviews of
the witnesses to determine whether police investigators accurately
summarized their statements.

The commission is expected to review the chief's report for several weeks
before addressing the matter in closed session.


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