As an independent news outlet, we enjoy the privilege of covering issues that bigger outlets won’t. At Los Angeleno, we write about people, places and idiosyncrasies with local impact and beyond. Your support is vital for us to continue doing so.
Now that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in five patrol stations have been outfitted with body cameras, the department has promised to release footage of the shooting of Fred Williams III. It’s not clear when, however, as Sheriff Alex Villanueva says the department needs to gather all the evidence first.
A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Williams on Oct. 16. According to the LASD, deputies from the Century sheriff’s station were patrolling Mona Park in Willowbrook at about 5:30 p.m. when they spotted a group of 10-15 people in a parking lot. One of them, later identified as Williams, was allegedly holding a gun. Deputies say Williams ran from the lot and down a driveway into a backyard in the 2200 block of East 121 Street. One of the deputies chased Williams and said he shot him after Williams pointed the gun at him. Williams was pronounced dead at the scene, while deputies sustained no injuries. Investigators say they recovered a semi-automatic handgun from the scene.
Witness Lisa Smith told the L.A. Times the group started running when they saw deputies and that she heard four shots after Williams disappeared around a corner. Surveillance footage shows Williams running up a driveway with the deputy in pursuit. A gun is not plainly visible in that footage.
Cliff Smith of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police expressed skepticism of the department’s story, according to KCAL9.
“It’s difficult to accept the sheriff’s official statement that Fred had turned around and pointed a gun at this deputy as he’s running away with nothing in his hands, climbing an 8-foot block wall and is shot at the top of the wall, such that his body falls and lands into the next yard,” Smith said.
Cell phone video from Williams’ family’s attorney shows bullet holes on the wall they claim he was trying to climb to get away.
Body cameras rolled out in five patrol stations earlier this month. Villanueva said during a Facebook stream yesterday that the footage from this shooting, and every deputy-involved shooting, will be released publicly. First, however, the department must gather all evidence. That includes executing search warrants, interviewing all involved parties, gathering surveillance — including body camera footage — and getting a preliminary report from the coroner. A cause of death — “gunshot wound of back” — has been released by the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, but pending tests need to be finalized before the report is made public.
Villanueva said the reason for this is to avoid tainting witness testimony. The process could take a couple of weeks or longer, but Villanueva said once the department collects all the evidence, they will release all the video footage. He promised that detectives are working “around the clock.” State law gives them 45 days.
Williams’s father, Fred Williams Jr., told the Times that his son had been released from prison for robbery a month prior and was planning to start a new job as a security guard. At a demonstration demanding justice for Williams, his mother, Kenyata Lott, said law enforcement had been “messing” with her son ever since he was released from prison.