LAPD shot Jermaine Petit in the back several times after reports of him possessing a “deadly weapon.” Officers later revealed they only found a small car part at the scene.
The Los Angeles Police Department shot Jermaine Petit several times in the back near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South Bronson Avenue on July 18. The circumstances that led to the shooting in the Leimert Park area are still unclear. According to a press conference several hours after the shooting, Southwest Division officers had received a call saying there was an “assault with a deadly weapon” in progress. In the presser, Sergeant Bruce Borihanh of LAPD stated that officers on scene believed the man was armed with a handgun. Leimert Park residents and activists are now calling for more answers after it was revealed that Petit was not in possession of a handgun.
LAPD stated that they were convinced that Petit “fit the description” of the suspect of the call though they have not yet released any details regarding what that description was. Police claim that Petit “turned multiple times in their direction and pointed a black metallic object believed to be a firearm.” They then stated Petit did not respond to police commands.
Sergeant Borihanh told reporters that “a weapon had been gathered at the scene.” When Cop Watcher William Gude asked directly whether the “weapon” was a handgun, Borihanh insisted that they were “only describing it as a weapon at this time as the investigation goes on.” Pressed several times, Borihanh then admitted he hadn’t seen what the “weapon” was. The “weapon” later turned out to be a “black metal latch actuator,” which LAPD Chief Michel Moore revealed during a Police Commission meeting the next morning. LAPD’s public information officer would not respond to Knock LA’s questions about the item until several hours after Moore spoke at the meeting. Moore then promised the commission that photos would be released “to come.”
It took seven days for LAPD to release photos of the black metal latch actuator that Petit was holding. On July 25, LAPD also identified the officers involved as Sergeant I Brett Hayhoe and Police Officer II Daryl Glover, though they have not identified which officers shot Petit.
In previous incidents, LAPD has released photos of weapons — as well as items that officers believed to be weapons — within a day or just hours after arrests and shootings. Even after releasing photographs of the metal component, LAPD’s press release stating that the actuator is an “object resembling a firearm” wasn’t shared until a week after the shooting.
LAPD’s updated press release also added a transcript of the radio call to officers responding to Petit. Though the initial release claimed that officers were responding to reports of assault with a deadly weapon, the transcript makes no mention of any assaults committed. The conversation does include the person reporting the incident stating, “And, uh I told him to leave and he pulled out a gun. Looks like a black, semi-automatic gun.”
Neighbors and witnesses recounting the incident to Knock LA tell of a nonviolent man dealing with mental illness, and their accounts differ from LAPD’s. One woman told Knock LA the night of the shooting that “he didn’t deserve this. No Black man deserves this. I’m tired of seeing this. This shit is so hurtful. I’m glad I actually have a daughter, to be honest with you. I’ve been seeing this shit happen so much; it’s unnecessary.”
One man told Knock LA that he saw multiple cruisers quickly arriving without sirens. He saw officers chasing a confused looking Petit who looked back at them with an expression that the witness described as “like, what do you guys want?” He described witnessing the event with his grandchildren, who were playing in his yard. The neighbor initially believed the LAPD was going to taze Petit, but grew nervous when his partner realized officers were brandishing handguns rather than tasers. He describes an officer on scene getting out of her vehicle with a less lethal shotgun at around the same time that officers began shooting with handguns.
After Petit had been shot, the witness said he saw officers looking around the scene for a weapon, asking each other, “Do you see it? Do you see it?”
“Y’all have options, why shoot with guns?” the neighbor said.
Video shows Petit lying in the street after having been shot. A witness describes the man being moved onto his back, and says that he’s “trying to comply with all their directions.” (Trigger Warning: The video is graphic.)
Video from a different angle shows at least 14 officers approaching Petit as he is lying on his back after being shot. Though a ballistic shield is being wielded by one officer, many are positioned to the left and right of the shield. One officer begins handcuffing Petit as a pool of blood begins to continue to form underneath. Police then roughly turn Petit over and cut the straps of his backpack. Neighbors can be heard shouting and more officers begin to arrive at the location. (Trigger Warning: The video is graphic.)
One neighbor described Petit as a man who “minds his own business, and does what he wants.” She told Knock LA that “he is not violent. He’s not one of those people screaming on the corner… So for this man to… not have a weapon or anything to cause this, it’s fucked up. Why did this man have to get fucking shot in his back?” She described her mother, a friend of the Petit family, as “in a shock mode.”
Another neighbor told the LA Times that a cousin of Petit’s said Petit was a military veteran and was fearful of officers after previous run-ins with law enforcement. In 2019, ABC 7 profiled Petit after he was tased by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies who attempted to stop him for jaywalking after deputies stated that they thought Petit had a weapon. Petit described himself as suffering from drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the United States Air Force as an EMT. He said that, during the 2019 incident, he was unable to understand the deputies’ directions.
In the ABC 7 report, his mother seemed overjoyed, saying “I got my son back.” Lieutenant James Powers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department celebrated Petit’s move into transitional housing after run-ins with law enforcement and told reporters, “I want to help him. He deserves that help; he fought for our country.”
As details remain murky, politicians and activists alike are beginning to add to the questions coming from the neighborhood. Mayoral candidate Karen Bass called the developing reports “increasingly alarming.” Petit was listed as being in stable condition by LAPD several days ago. LAPD policy states that they will release bodycam footage within 45 days of critical incidents.
The night of the shooting, Knock LA saw several police officers on scene laughing, only feet away from where Petit was shot just several hours earlier.
LAPD has scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss the shooting via Zoom on Thursday July 28 at 6 PM.