Los Angeles Police Department officials this week released the names of two officers who fired their weapons in a shooting that killed a knife-wielding man at a supportive housing facility on Skid Row. One of the officers was involved in another fatal shooting at the beginning of the year.
According to an LAPD news release, the most recent shooting occurred when officers were called to a report of a man with a knife who had threatened another person at the Ford Hotel in Skid Row.
When they arrived, a security guard directed them to the 6th floor. As they stepped off the elevator, they encountered a man holding an umbrella and a knife, the release said. Police said the officers ordered the man to drop the knife, but instead he raised it above his head and “advanced toward” them. Officers Diego Bracamontes and Hayley Basile both shot the man with their service firearms. The 56-year-old man, who police have not yet named, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said another officer also fired a projectile from a less-lethal weapon during the incident. The Times has not yet independently verified the department’s account of events.
The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. on July 20, at the Ford, a century-old former hotel in the 1000 block of E. 7th Street that has been turned into single-room-occupancy housing for people on the brink of homelessness.
On Tuesday, Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission that officers were immediately confronted by the man as soon as the elevator doors opened. Moore said he was limited in what he could say by the “very active investigation” of the incident, but preliminary information indicated the man had previously threatened police.
The incident will be investigated by the LAPD’s Force Investigations Division, which will present the findings of its probe to the civilian-led Police Commission for a ruling on whether the officers involved followed department policy. Such investigations typically take several months and can last up to a year.
In the meantime, the two officers involved will be temporarily taken off the streets in keeping with the department’s policy following on-duty shootings.
Bracamontes, a 13-year department veteran, was involved in another fatal shooting of a 35-year-old man at a South L.A. home earlier this year. The incident came amid a string of police killings of unarmed individuals at the start of the year that drew renewed attention to how the department handles calls involving people in crisis.
At the time, police said that Bracamontes and his police partner were responding to reports of an assault with a deadly weapon when they encountered Oscar Leon Sanchez. He was holding what police described as a “sharp metal object about a foot in length.” Sanchez’s family has said it was a scooter part.
According to police, the officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the item, and they shot him when he stepped toward them.
Sanchez’s family has since filed a lawsuit against the city and the two officers — Bracamontes and Christopher Guerrero — alleging negligence in their handling of the encounter.
Leon Sanchez’s family says in the lawsuit that he didn’t understand what was happening when the officers came into his home on Jan. 3 and shot him in his living room.
His last words were in Spanish, telling the officers, “no les voy a dejar que me roben,” which translates to “I am not going to allow you to rob me,” according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The city has not yet lodged a formal response to the allegations in the lawsuit.
Police suspected Leon Sanchez of assaulting someone near his home in the 2700 block of South Central Ave. several hours before the shooting, according to the suit. When police arrived, he was standing on a second-story porch. Officers spoke with him for 10 minutes from the ground below, but then grew impatient and entered the home through an open back door, the suit says.
They shot him within five seconds of entering the home, Leon Sanchez’s family said. The shooting occurred without any warnings, according to the family, and they say the only commands officers issued were in English, even though they understood that Leon Sanchez only spoke Spanish.
After he was shot, Sanchez was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Attorney Christian Contreras, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family, said that when he told Leon Sanchez’s brother that one of the officers had been involved had been in another shooting, the brother became distraught.
“The City of Los Angeles listened to the calls of not the only the calls , but the community, to remove these officers and discipline them, then it would’ve unequivocally prevented another shooting,” said Contreras. “No matter what we do in the civil case, we could get a record breaking verdict, that’s not going to change anything with regards to these officers.”
He continued: “The family is still trying to cope with the death of Oscar. They’re just heartbroken. Now that they’ve learned that the same officer … it just retraumatizes them, and they’re very upset.”
Times staff writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.