Huntington Beach Police Officer Shoots Transient — What Actually Happened?

Huntington Beach Police Officer Shoots Transient — What Actually Happened?

Early Friday morning, an officer-involved shooting occurred in Huntington Beach, California. Cellphone footage of the incident has gone viral, with many speculating on the events leading to the shooting death of a transient at the hands of a Huntington Beach police officer.

Warning: Graphic footage (uncensored)

The video shows a transient man struggling with a police officer on the ground outside of a local 7-Eleven convenience store. The transient can be seen tugging and removing an object from the officer's duty belt. Although it's not clear what the object was, it caused the officer to suddenly disengage and draw his service weapon.

As the transient staggers to his feet, the officer discharges six rounds. Amazingly, the transient stumbles but stays on his feet, still clutching the unknown object. The officer commands the man to "get down." The suspect remains non-compliant as a seventh round is fired and he crumples to the ground, motionless.

From Fox News:

The officer can be heard speaking into his radio, saying, “the suspect is down.”

The officer had been speaking with the man outside the convenience store before the confrontation, Officer Angela Bennett, a police spokeswoman, said.

Police provided no additional information about what led to the initial encounter.

Bennett said the department is aware of video that shows the shooting and would review all evidence in the case.

”We’re still in the very early stages of this investigation,” she said.

The shooting occurred in the vicinity of Marina High School, which was put on lockdown as a precaution.

At this point, with little information publicly available, the questions on everyone's mind is:

What events lead to this incident? Did the police officer act appropriately?

In order for the police officer's actions to be ruled justified, there must be a clear threat or danger of imminent grave bodily injury or death. According to a January interview with Officer Jennifer Marlatt, “It’s the officer’s perception of the situation. If the officer thought his life was in danger or someone else’s life was in danger, he could use deadly force.

Much of the controversy surrounding the footage is whether the transient posed a threat to public safety at the time of the shooting. According to two witnesses, the object that was taken from the officer's belt was a "magazine clip" of ammunition. Although certain news outlets have taken the statement and reported it as fact, this is far from the case.

Enlarged images of the object the transient seized from the officer's belt.

Enlarged images of the object the transient seized from the officer's belt.

We consulted our law enforcement sources for further clarification. From the footage, we can see the object was removed from the officer's left-rear side. The vast majority of right-handed police officers do not store ammunition at this position, opting instead for magazines to be stored at the front of the belt.

After the shooting, the footage reveals that the officer still has a magazine protruding from his front:

Magazine visible on officer's front-left side

Magazine visible on officer's front-left side

Of course, police officers typically carry more than one magazine, so the possibility has not been completely ruled out, nor does it eliminate all others.

An item that police officers do typically carry on their backsides is a folding knife. Here is a side-by-side comparison of a magazine and a typical pocket knife:

Posted anonymously  by a police officer on Reddit.

Posted anonymously by a police officer on Reddit.

Even if the subject had indeed removed only a magazine, the high-stress intensity of the altercation could've easily caused the officer to believe it to be his own knife or some other weapon. With the 21 foot rule taken into account, the subject would've been well within lethal striking range of the officer, necessitating a deadly force response.

Regardless of what the footage shows, we simply don't have the information necessary to determine whether the officer was in the right or wrong.

We do know that prior to the beginning of the footage, the transient was actively resisting the officer. The same witnesses stated that the man had punched the officer and that a Taser stun weapon was unsuccessfully deployed.

The deceased man remains unidentified, as well as the police officer, who has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation. Unfortunately, it looks as if the anti-police narrative will once again take center stage, despite the lack of information:

Who needs facts when you have preconceived notions?

Who needs facts when you have preconceived notions?

Stay alert. Stay alive.

Update (09-23-17)

New footage has been released showing the events leading up to the shooting: 

The suspect clearly can be seen attacking the officer. At one point in the muffled audio, the officer can be heard saying something like “let go of my gun.” 

The unsuccessful Taser deployment is also shown in the footage. Despite a close range discharge, it has zero effect on the transient. 

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