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Los Angeles chief ‘deeply concerned’ by 2 police shootings

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles police chief said Wednesday he is concerned about two recent fatal police shootings, including one where officers failed to call for a specially-trained mental health team during an interaction with a man in crisis.

Chief Michel Moore said Wednesday that he is “deeply concerned” by the deaths of those men, as well as a third, over two days — two fatally shot by officers and one who went into cardiac arrest hours after police used a stun gun on him during a struggle.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office is still investigating the cases for Keenan Anderson, the cardiac arrest patient who is related to a Black Lives Matter co-founder, and Oscar Sanchez and have not yet ruled on the cause and manner of their deaths. Both died on Jan. 3.

Takar Smith’s death was ruled a homicide — as is typical for fatal police shootings — by gunshot wounds. His wife had sought help from police for a restraining order violation on Jan. 2 and warned officers of her husband’s mental health condition.

Smith, 45, was fatally shot after raising a 10-inch (25-centimeter) butcher-style knife above his head after officers had stun gunned and pepper sprayed him. The LAPD said Officer Joseph Zizzo and Officer Nicolas Alejandre opened fire.

None of the department’s specialized mental health teams, which are paired with clinicians, were summoned after his wife’s initial report or during the course of the roughly 15-minute interaction with police in the couple’s apartment.

Smith’s killing has already prompted Moore to order additional training for officers. The LAPD on Wednesday released body-worn video footage of the three instances, well ahead of the typical 45-day deadline.

The shootings came in the days after Moore applied for a second five-year term as the head of the police department. The city’s new mayor, Karen Bass, has not yet said whether she supports Moore’s reappointment, which will be voted on by the five-member civilian police commission. The City Council can overrule the commission’s decision with 10 veto votes.

The department has come under fire in recent years for a rise in police shootings, as well as other high-profile failures.

Smith’s family told the Los Angeles Times that he had been on medication to treat schizophrenia over the last few years but his mental health had been deteriorating recently. His wife had sought help from police.

“Please don’t kill my husband,” she told the officers, she recalled to the Times. “He’s not in his right mind.”

Bass echoed Moore’s concerns and called the videos of all three incidents “deeply disturbing.”

“Especially as a former health care professional, I am deeply troubled that mental health experts were not called in, even when there was a documented history of past mental health crisis,” she said in a statement, addressing Smith’s death. “When there is no immediate risk to others, law enforcement must not be the first responder when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. I believe officers and Angelenos agree on this.”

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