Photo Credit: Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times
Three Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed a Corvette driver they believed was reaching for a weapon last year won’t face criminal charges following the recent conclusion of an investigation by LA prosecutors.
The shooting of 51-year-old Brian Beaird came on the night of Dec. 13, 2013 after he had led police on a wild high-speed chase through downtown Los Angeles.
The pursuit finally ended when Beaird crashed into another car while going through an intersection. He then climbed out of the Corvette, staggering and heading toward the back of the car where officers believed he was reaching for a weapon.
He was actually unarmed, but the three officers say they didn’t know that. Instead, they opened fire and hit Beaird with more than 12 bullets, killing him in front of a TV audience that included his 80-year-old father.
The city of Los Angeles settled a federal civil rights lawsuit last year, agreeing to pay Beaird’s family $5 million, the largest payout by LA in a police shooting case in at least 10 years.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ruled last year that the officers had violated department policy for using deadly force when they shot Beaird and relieved them of duty without pay.
But prosecutors decided that the evidence was insufficient that the officers did not act in self-defense or in defense of others.
Filing criminal charges requires a higher burden of proof than in LAPD administrative proceedings, they said.
Officers at the scene told investigators that Beaird ignored multiple orders to show his hands and get on the ground, according to prosecutors. One officer described him as “angry and agitated.” Three others said they saw Beaird reach toward his waistband before police opened fire.
“Officers had reason to believe Beaird might be a danger,” prosecutors wrote in a Jan. 29 letter explaining their decision not to seek criminal charges against the officers.
Also uncovered during the investigation was the fact that a toxicology screening showed Beaird had marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and an antidepressant in his system.
Also, views of the scene from news helicopters following the chase that night did not “provide the same view [of] the shooting officers had at the time they fired their weapons,” prosecutors said, adding that several officers, standing in various locations, believed Beaird was reaching for a weapon.
Chief Beck will now determine the final punishment for the three officers, who could be suspended, fired, and undergo more training.
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