The trial began Tuesday of a family who sued the Los Angeles Police Department for the wrongful death of their family member.
The family of Charly Keunang, 42, claim officers used excessive force and discriminated against the Cameroon native. They also said the officers failed to de-escalate a confrontation that specialized Skid Row officers are trained to do.
In opening statements, the lawyer for Keunang’s family said he was disabled because he was schizophrenic and that officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres, along with Sgt. Chand Syed, should have quietly engaged Keunang, not shouted orders.
The officers’ defense said that four videos, including the body camera footage, should be viewed in totality. The officers came in response to a 911 call regarding a person in a neighboring tent reporting that Keunang had kicked him and come at him with a baseball bat, the defense said.
The officers’ attorney, Christian Borjoquez, told the jury not to blame the officers for the decisions that Keunang made. Keunang rejected the officers’ instructions to move from his tent so they could check him for weapons and instead retreated into the tent where he might access weapons, the defense said.
Officers said there was no sign that Keunang was mentally ill.
The jury watched video of the escalating confrontation with the officers first warning Keunang that they would Tase him and then the Tazer firing at his back.
The plaintiffs said heightened emotion and ultimately the probes in his body caused Keunang to react violently.
As for the officer shouting “he’s got my gun” during the video, the plaintiffs claim that the officer had earlier had his gun out, failed to properly holster it and that Keunang never had it.