LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police released video Tuesday showing officers fatally shooting an armed man and the woman he was holding hostage, marking the second time LAPD gunfire has killed a bystander in the last six weeks.
A hostage has not been killed by department gunfire in the last 13 years until the two recent bystanders, Police Chief Michel Moore told reporters.
A man held a knife to a woman's throat outside a church last month and witnesses said he began cutting her when officers shot at the pair nearly 20 times, killing them both, authorities say.
"This is another case where officers were forced to make split-second decisions based on the actions of a violent individual," Moore said.
Authorities said last week that a Los Angeles police bullet killed a store worker before a man took hostages inside a Trader Joe's. Moore had defended the officers' use of deadly force as an attempt to stop what they feared could become a mass shooting.
The police chief said Tuesday that he was concerned because the average number of rounds fired by officers during shootings had increased last year and the average number of officers involved in those shootings also increased.
The police department will implement a new training program and is exploring how to equip officers with other non-lethal weapons, he said.
In the newly released footage from officers' body-worn cameras, police spotted a suspect, Guillermo Perez, 32, holding a large knife and a metal folding chair outside the Central Lutheran Church on June 16.
They responded to the church that provides food and support for homeless people after a 911 call reported a man had stabbed his ex-girlfriend. She was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
"Drop the knife!" an officer repeatedly shouted at Perez, but he ignored the command.
An officer fires several rounds from a bean bag shotgun — which fires a small sack with metal pellets — but Perez appears to use the folding chair to deflect them.
Perez walks backward and approaches a woman, Elizabeth Tollison, who was standing nearby. He dropped the chair and put the knife to her throat.
Witnesses told police that Perez moved the knife in a "sawing motion against her throat and cut her throat," Cmdr. Alan Hamilton, who leads the unit that investigates police shootings, said in the video.
Three of the officers then opened fire from their handguns, shooting 18 rounds total. Both Perez and Tollison were killed.
Moore told reporters that hostages' lives are a priority and recruits are generally taught to use a "precise head shot." He said an investigation will look at whether the officers' actions align with hostage training.