NCAVF Shows CNN’s ‘Erin Burnett Out Front’ that LAPD Shooting of a Homeless Man Was Justified

On Sunday, March 01, 2015, LAPD Officers responded to a 911 call in the “Skid Row” district of Downtown Los Angeles. While being questioned by officers, the suspect began to resist and fight. Seconds later, the suspect was shot dead by the police.

Since the shooting, many in the community have asked very important questions:

  • There were many officers. Why couldn’t they detain the suspect without killing him?
  • Was the shooting justified or racially motivated?
  • Were the officers too quick to respond with lethal force?


David Notowitz, Lead Forensic Expert
for NCAVF, is interviewed by CNN

CNN contacted NCAVF to find answers to those questions. Provided with an original copy of the iPhone video of the shooting and with CNN watching and taping in our forensic lab, NCAVF enhanced the video and showed unequivocally that the LAPD shooting of a homeless man was justified as was their use of lethal force.

Here’s how NCAVF did it.


Having been posted on Facebook and YouTube, the iPhone footage of the LAPD shooting of a homeless man has gone viral. The footage that many have seen, however, is degraded and not in the original high definition resolution. Producers for CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front went to the home of the man who shot the video and acquired a copy of the shooting in it’s original HD format and brought it to NCAVF’s forensic lab. Using this high def copy, NCAVF was able to evaluate and enhance the video with remarkable clarity. NCAVF’s lead forensic expert, David Notowitz, was interviewed by CNN’s Stephanie Elam throughout the process.


As is often the case with a video shot from a hand-held device, it is quite shaky. So it was first necessary to stabilize the video using a warp stabilizing filter. Forensic experts then adjusted the brightness and contrast to more clearly see the turn of events. In addition, NCAVF magnified the video to bring details into focus.


Suspect 2 threatening officers with baton

So what did happen? While being questioned, the primary suspect became combative and attacked the crowd of officers by swinging and flailing with closed fists at the officers. The altercation quickly went to the ground where four of the six officers on scene attempted to subdue the suspect; meanwhile two additional officers arrested a second suspect who picked up a baton which she used to threaten the officers.

Once the primary suspect (Suspect 1) and the four officers go to the ground, the enhancements of the video become crucial. NCAVF’s lead forensic expert paused and magnified tight on the first officer’s (Officer 1’s) right hip, which was established to be his “gun side”. Almost immediately after going to the ground, Suspect 1 grabs Officer 1’s gun and holds on to it. What’s more, as Officer 1 attempts to stand up and free his weapon from the suspect’s grasp, the movements lift the suspect off the ground and move him backwards. It is here that an officer yells, “drop the gun” at least three times.


Suspect 1 grabs gun of Officer 1

Closeup showing hand of Suspect 1 on gun


Officer 4 prepares to use taser on Suspect 1

Up until this point, all efforts by all the officers involved to subdue Suspect 1 were non-lethal. All of the officers had their weapons holstered. All of the officers were attempting to subdue the suspect either by using their hands, batons, or tasers. It was not until the suspect grabbed on to an officer’s gun, was warned three times, and still refused to let go of the firearm that officers were forced to draw their weapons and fire in order to protect themselves as well as the crowd of bystanders.


Officer 4 drops taser and draws weapon

Officers 2, 3, and 4 have drawn down on Suspect 1


Therefore, seeing the struggle over the weapon, and hearing the officer’s call of, “drop the gun”, Officer 2 appears to be the first to draw and fire his weapon at the suspect. Officers 3 and 4 almost immediately then draw and fire their weapons as well. In all, five shots were fired, killing the suspect. The LAPD later released photos of the first officers half-holstered weapon showing that there was indeed a struggle over the weapon. So strong was this struggle, in fact, that it managed the rack the weapons slide halfway back and lodge a round in the ejection port.


Gun of Officer 1 with slide partially racked and round jammed in the ejection port

Gun of Officer 1 as holstered after struggle. Note the partially ejected magazine and racked slide.


The raw video footage of this officer involved shooting can paint a picture difficult to understand. There is a lot of movement not only of the officers and suspects, but of the video itself. What’s more, the events escalated and unfolded very quickly. But when the video is enhanced and cleaned up properly, the suspect is clearly seen grabbing the officer’s weapon. The video enhancement tools and techniques utilized by NCAVF on this case were invaluable in showing unequivocally that once the suspect had grabbed the officer’s weapon, police were left no choice but to fire.