LAPD officers shot at two unarmed men from police vehicles in less than a week. On July 21, 2022, Ramon Mosqueda was shot at while exiting a vehicle and holding a black butane lighter in North Hollywood. Three days earlier, LAPD Sergeant Brett Hayhoe shot mentally ill USAF veteran Jermaine Petit from his vehicle in the area of Leimert Park. Two officers on foot acknowledged that an auto part Petit was holding wasn’t a handgun before a supervisor shot him through the passenger-side window of the police car while driving. Then, one of the officers on foot also shot.
In both incidents, LAPD claimed officers thought objects in the hands of those they shot at were handguns. Both display the failure of vaguely worded LAPD policies to prevent the potentially deadly behavior of shooting out of a police car toward unarmed people.
An unnamed officer from the Gang Enforcement Detail in the Foothill Division shot at Mosqueda from the passenger side of a moving police cruiser three times. He missed Mosqueda with all three shots.
Video of the Mosqueda shooting — and the concerning scene that followed — was released more than a month later, on September 2, 2022. Taken July 21, the video features dashcam, bodycam, and home security footage from the residence. An LAPD cruiser carrying an officer approaches Mosqueda as he exits a truck. Mosqueda sees the officers and walks toward a nearby residence while holding a lighter in his hand. Giving no warning or verbal commands, the unnamed officer shoots three times toward Mosqueda from the passenger side of the police vehicle. Mosqueda has his back turned to the officers when the shots are fired. All three shots miss Mosqueda as he and a passenger flee into the residence.
Seconds later, LAPD officers scream at a visibly terrified woman as she runs away from the passenger seat of the vehicle. One man approaches from nearby and asks what happened, while the officer that shot at Mosqueda points his handgun at him. He tells the officers he has a family inside the residence, while the officer tells him, “Just get out of here, man. That’s it!”
LAPD called in additional units from the nearby LAPD Metro Division as well as a helicopter and a response team from SWAT. Officers eventually determined that Mosqueda had evaded officers. Knock LA asked LAPD spokespeople the amount of personnel it had committed to setting a perimeter and search. They replied that the “number of officers was sufficient for the situation,” despite officers eventually giving up the search after determining they were unable to locate him.
Video of Jermaine Petit’s shooting days earlier shares several similarities. Sergeant Hayhoe shot Petit from the driver’s side of his vehicle while pointing his handgun out of the passenger-side window. LAPD claims both men held items which appeared to be firearms, but in actuality, they were unarmed. In both cases, audio which would have been useful toward understanding the shootings is missing due to the officers’ failure to activate equipment before engaging and shooting. Nearly the exact maximum of 45 days allowed by law went by before the videos were released by the LAPD. It took 43 days for video of officers shooting at Mosqueda to be released. Footage of Petit being shot took 42 days.
According to LAPD’s accounts in Critical Incident videos, audio from the dashcam of a police cruiser is activated either manually or automatically when sirens are activated. In these cases, officers did not turn on sirens or activate their dashcam in time for audio to be included in footage provided by LAPD. The officer that shot at Mosqueda did not activate his bodycam until after shooting his handgun; audio from a body-worn camera begins just after the shooting.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Police Commission on July 26, 2022, Chief Michel Moore claimed that the officers “attempted to conduct a pedestrian stop on the individual,” despite officers not leaving their vehicle or activating sirens before one of them began shooting at Mosqueda.
Moore also told commissioners during the July 26 meeting that a picture of Mosqueda had been on a Mission Division “crime flyer” several days before the incident. Knock LA requested a copy of the flyer, but were told by LAPD Public Information officers that they are internal documents only. Knock LA has filed a records request for a copy.
It took several days for LAPD’s newsroom to discuss anything regarding the shooting, but LAPD’s preliminary information called Mosqueda a “known gang member.” LAPD has been caught lying about gang affiliations of citizens within the last few years, though there have been no successful prosecutions arising from the scandal.
LAPD did not respond to any questions about Mosqueda’s alleged affiliations. On August 4, Mosqueda was arrested and booked on several counts of robbery. The court case is ongoing, and Mosqueda has pleaded not guilty.
Despite at least two cases of officers firing from their vehicles in several days, LAPD told Knock LA that no changes to their policy regarding firing from vehicles have been made. While the policy begins with “firearms shall not be discharged from a moving vehicle,” it quickly adds a litany of caveats beginning with “except in exigent circumstances.” It then notes that “it is understood that the policy regarding discharging a firearm at or from a moving vehicle may not cover every situation that may arise.” The policy notes that “factors that may be considered include whether the officer’s life or the lives of others were in immediate peril and there was no reasonable or apparent means of escape.”
It would likely be difficult to argue that the life of the officer riding in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle was in danger when he shot at an unarmed Mosqueda. Perhaps more difficult to argue would be that there is no reasonable or apparent means of escape for an officer sitting in the passenger seat of an already-moving vehicle. Sergeant Brett Hayhoe will likely struggle in arguing that shooting at an unarmed Jermaine Petit while driving was in policy. However, even when uses of deadly force by LAPD officers in the past were found to be out of policy, 41% of officers avoided punishment or received no penalties at all. While LAPD struggles to gain the community’s confidence in punishing officers for reckless behavior, these new cases highlight a dangerous potential trend.