LAPD Chief Asks Inspector General to Review Shooting of Homeless

Tom Boland (
Sat, 30 Oct 1999 14:25:55 -0700 (PDT)

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Might media scrutiny and public protest of this case affect the number,
thoroughness and outcome of investigations of the police killing of a
homeless woman in Los Angeles?
FWD  [California, USA] Los Angeles Times - Friday, October 29, 1999


     LAPD: Spokesman says offer, which puzzles some commissioners,
     is a show of support for the civilian watchdog, who was already
     examining homeless woman's death.

     By MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks on Thursday invited the
Police Commission's civilian watchdog to review all aspects of the police
shooting of a mentally ill homeless woman.

"I am committed to providing the inspector general with complete
access to all of the related investigative material," Parks said in
prepared statement.

Some commission officials found the chief's invitation puzzling
considering that Inspector General Jeffrey Eglash has been overseeing the
inquiry into the shooting of Margaret Mitchell, 55, for months as part of
his normal duties.

"An invitation is not necessary," said one commission source.

Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff said "the inspector general is
already performing that function."

As part of his duties, Eglash is reviewing the chief's findings on the
shooting, which were forwarded to the commission last week. In his
report, sources say, the chief finds that the officer who shot Mitchell
used such bad tactics that he faces possible discipline. But, sources
add, Parks still considers the shooting to have been "in policy."

The chief's invitation to the inspector general comes amid a
long-running controversy between the LAPD and the commission over the
roles and authority of the inspector general position.

Earlier this week, the commission formed a subcommittee to
definitively set the watchdog's role and establish work rules for how the
office interacts with LAPD employees. Also this week, City Council
members roundly criticized the chief for what they perceive as his
reluctance to embrace civilian oversight.

Lt. Sharyn Buck, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, said the chief offered
the invitation to the inspector general to publicly convey his support
for the position.

"The intent was for the public to see that the chief recognizes the
importance of the inspector general," Buck said.

Parks added in his statement: "The department remains committed to
maintaining the trust, respect and confidence of the community."

The chief said the Mitchell shooting "was a tragic incident for all
those involved, and I share the community's desire to fully examine all
of the facts."

Eglash said he appreciated the chief's invitation.

"The office of the inspector general will continue its review of this
matter in order to advise and assist the commission," he said.

Mitchell was shot May 21 as she pushed her shopping cart down a
sidewalk at 4th Street and La Brea Avenue. Patrolling the area on their
bikes, Officers Edward Larrigan and Kathy Clark stopped Mitchell to
determine whether the shopping cart was stolen.

According to police, Mitchell immediately became hostile, threatening
to kill the two officers.

A passing motorist stopped and tried to intervene, unsuccessfully
urging Mitchell to heed the officers' commands. But Mitchell continued to
walk away.

At some point, sources said, Mitchell put the screwdriver back in her
cart and shoved it at Larrigan, who pushed it back at her in an attempt
to keep the cart between them. The chief reportedly found that to be
among the bad tactics used during the incident.

When the officers attempted to stop Mitchell again, she allegedly
lunged at them with the screwdriver. Larrigan lost his balance.
Reportedly feeling threatened by the screwdriver-wielding Mitchell, the
officer shot her once in the chest. Mitchell died about 30 minutes later.

Police officials said the chief plans to hold a news conference today
to more fully discuss the Mitchell investigation.


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