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Video: Los Angeles County Deputies Fatally Shoot Armed Man in Controversial Incident

December 14, 2015  | 

VIDEO: Los Angeles County Deputies Fatally Shoot Armed Man in Controversial Incident

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials on Sunday displayed photos and a video appearing to show a man holding a gun just before he was fatally shot Saturday by deputies in an incident that has generated debate about police use of force.

Sheriff's officials said at a news conference that the man, Nicholas Robertson, 28, fired six to seven shots into the air on a residential street in Lynwood before walking into a bustling shopping district on Long Beach Boulevard around 11 a.m.

He entered at least one business on the boulevard, "behaving erratically with gun in hand," said Capt. Steve Katz of the sheriff's homicide unit. A video displayed at the news conference showed Robertson on the street appearing to hold a gun as the two deputies arrived.

Katz said "public safety was critical here" because there were people on the street, including some at a gas station that Robertson was walking toward. Robertson at one point pointed the gun in the deputies' direction and ignored their commands for him to drop the weapon, he said.

The deputies opened fire, and in the video released Saturday, continued to shoot as Robertson was crawling. Authorities said he was continuing to hold the gun at that time. In all, one deputy fired 16 shots and the other fired 17.

Juan Roberto, 18, told the Los Angeles Times he was sweeping the floor inside the pool and banquet room of Chico's Pizza parlor, across the street from the site of the shooting, on Saturday morning when a man walked in with a gun.

Seth Stoughton, a criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former Tampa, Fla., police officer, said there are circumstances under which an officer can shoot at a suspect walking away from them. “If the deputies reasonably believe the suspect with a firearm presents a danger by walking toward a gas station with vehicles and bystanders, they would be justified in using deadly force.

“It does not strike me as egregious like [the] Walter Scott video here in South Carolina.... If the suspect wasn't armed or they didn't have a solid basis for that belief, that would more problematic,” Stoughton said. More facts, he cautioned, are needed to determine what occurred outside the video.

Once the suspect is on the ground, how close the gun is to him is key in whether shots are justified, he added.

Comments (34)

Displaying 1 - 34 of 34

Joe @ 12/14/2015 3:22 PM

Good grief. What can even be controversial about this? The guy was a danger to public safety. What are the officers supposed to do? Walk up to him and say drop the gun you've been firing pretty please? SMDH BTW I consider myself a liberal but enough is enough with the cop bashing. Call a Blood or a Crip instead of the police next time and see how that works for you.

Leonard @ 12/14/2015 4:17 PM

It's not cop bashing and as citizens we have a duty to question every instance of deadly force. While I'm not calling this shooting unjustified, I do question why officers felt the need to continue shooting a man, from behind, while crawling away from the officers; gun or no gun in the suspects hand. It appeared obvious that the man was not going anywhere and had no real ability to shoot anyone, let alone the officers some 30-50 feet away from him. Why not tactically evaluate the situation after taking him down?

Leonard's an idiot @ 12/14/2015 4:59 PM

Well Leonard, you bafoon, while its greatly appreciated that you fulfill your self declared duty to question EVERY lethal force scenario, I question your basis, expertise, and working knowledge of this specific scenario or any other that would allow for your opinion to have any merit. That being said I would like to get specific with your argument and ask you what the trigger pull weight was of the gun the subject had who got shot? I would like to know what that subject's strength capacity was after he was shot and fell to the ground, but before he died, (a percentage is fine) and whether or not the subject had the ability to pull that trigger.

I'm just kidding buddy, I know you don't have this kind of knowledge. As previously stated, and as the screen name I chose would allude, you're a putz. Yes the citizens should be concerned with what their government is doing and they even have a right to not agree with decisions made, but people like you are a burden to society. Never pleased, never satisfied, always full of complaints but don't have the ability to fix anything. People like you are the jackasses that are always happy to text "Happy Veterans Day" and support such-and-such community but have never served anything greater than yourself a day in your life.

So go back to pondering the great tragedy and losses of life as you hand out money to hobos on the side of the freeway while writing your city council wondering why your city looks like shit. On the same note I would never wish any ill will to happen to you or your family, but my fondest holiday wish, aside from you getting a brain, would be your house to catch fire and burn down because the fire department was to busy trying to save the life of another one of our brothers or sisters that those facist, demented, trigger happy law enforcement officers chose to slaughter out of hate and discontent.

Thanks for the great read pal.

Ali Akbar @ 12/14/2015 8:54 PM

I'm not sure who posted the third comment but he's 100% correct. Leonard
bases all of his conclusions from things he's learned on television. Just so you know Leonard we don't get our training form old Miami Vice or Hill Street Blues reruns.
Had Mr. Robertson been high on any number of substances he could have easily had the strength to pull even a New York 8lb. trigger. Any shot fired in the vicinity of concrete has the potential to ricochet, change course dramatically and kill an innocent person.
There is also a concept of the totality of evidence. Single items cannot be viewed out of the entire context of the situation. All the facts of the event have to be viewed together to determine how they interact with the reality and level of a threat.
Sorry Leonard but you don't know what you don't know and you aren't qualified to offer an educated opinion based on an education obtained from the Univerity of Television.

fdc @ 12/15/2015 12:21 AM

Well Leonard I guess you got SCHOOLED! Maybe now before you open that pie hole you will research your question. The only deadly force you have the duty to question is the one used on you! Go back to drinking your mai tais and leave the driving to us.

Good Job Leonard's an idi @ 12/15/2015 5:43 AM

As an old 34yr. Retired Sgt., I have to say, "Leonard's an idiot", you did a most remarkable job of trying to correct "Leonard", although I doubt it will be of any benefit....Most adults refuse to admit when they are wrong...Anyway, you did a super job with your rhetoric!

kjh104 @ 12/15/2015 6:37 AM

to Leonard's an idiot. Thank you. seems today everyone is entitled! Why they feel entitled I am not sure, in Minneapolis BLM wanted the video from the Clark shooting. Why wouldn't they ask for photos of the victim that Clark had beaten to the point an ambulance was needed? Stay safe brothers and sisters

Dennis @ 12/15/2015 8:54 AM

Oh, are very do NOT have ANY duty whatsoever in this. You have no sort of an idea about what you speak, and unless or until you face the same situation, you have NO IDEA as to what you might do.......except soil yourself. How about you leave the law enforcement to the professionals?

Leonard @ 12/15/2015 2:54 PM

Seems that I struck a nerve with my comments. Firstly, I plainly stated that was not calling the shooting unjustified. I do frankly and will continue to questioned the need to continue firing when the threat on video appeared to be negligible. It appeared from the video that the suspect was not in a position to shot anyone a free being taken down and furthermore did not point the weapon at neither the public of the officers after being taken down. If at anytime that the suspect would have done either, then there would be no need for questions. So far every response has been an attack and none of you even offered a reasonable explanation as to why the officer need to continue shooting a suspect that appeared to be disabled was justified. You just cry with indignation that someone has the ability to question actions officers take in deadly force scenarios. I've also heard a bunch of implausible what if scenarios...something the many associated with LE like to do in these types of situations and others. Just make up crap, make it sound plausible and hope it sticks. Forgive me if I have a healthy sense of skepticism, especially toward police and the use of deadly force.

Percy @ 12/15/2015 5:50 PM

@Leonard, Well said.
Now wait for the fur to start flying, I agree 100% about the what if scenarios. They are the most ridiculously contrived and overused get out of jail free cards ever invented. Yet they only seem to work when it relates to the suspect not the le.
@Dennis says "How about you leave the law enforcement to the professionals?"
Well when you find some who can use actions other than to perforate people who are already dead or dying let me know. Or when 2 les both lie through their teeth to justify shooting someone 16 times(most of the shots fired while victim was on the ground). Or perhaps is a serial rapist, or just likes to sodomize cows, Robert Melia Jr. Or closer to home how about Kama' musings

"What unfortunate circumstances for a piece of shit, nearly breaks my heart...yah not so much.... :/"
After being found dead in his cell not convicted of any crime.

PROFESSIONALS, please. Not sure why you people "swear" an oath.

To the good ones out there not meant for you.

Leonard is not an idiot @ 12/15/2015 9:57 PM

He's simply a civilian that doesn't understand certain things. Leonard is right to question police but not right to arm chair quarterback. Generally civilians who have never witnessed or had the proverbial shit hit the fan feel that seconds and miliseconds can be broken down and analyzed as deliberate component parts after an incident occurs. They don't experience the time warp that officers do, instant adrenaline spike and fight or flight human responses, or how to combat those things and rely on their training.

But since you like "what if's" and "how comes" lets break it down. The guy was a clear threat. He refused to drop the gun. He could be going after someone around the corner. He still has the gun clearly on the ground, what if there is a person he wants to shoot at the last minute and gets that shot off from the ground, then you'd be blaming them. It's easy to make judgments after the fact with the facts. Hard to analyze, process and act in a matter of seconds. That's the dif

notepad @ 12/16/2015 3:26 PM

Just ignore Percy and Leonard

Old VAlawdog @ 12/16/2015 5:25 PM

To Percy and Leonard. Please read the details of the infamous 1986 FBI Miami shootout. Both suspects suffered what would have been fatal wounds and yet kept fighting. One of them, was still able to close on two FBI agents after suffering those wounds and murder them. Or the shootout in Skokie, IL, where the officer hit the suspect 17 times before the gunman stopped shooting. Half of those rounds according to the coroner would have eventually been fatal, but he kept fighting until he was hit in the head.
Their are hundreds off other case studies showing other suspects receiving what would be eventually be fatal wounds but still fighting. If the suspect can physically hold the handgun, then he can still pull the trigger. It only takes seconds to empty a hi-capacity magazine. And once it leaves the barrel that bullet can go anywhere. You can't take a chance on a innocent person taking a stray round. You have to stop the threat, not and not just hope they stop.

Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:21 AM

My response is going to take longer than the allowed 1000 characters, so it will be broken up into multiple parts:

I've never felt that name calling and insults accomplish very much so I'll just address the questions raised by some. This was an instance of someone known (not just suspected) to be armed with a gun. He had already fired shots and was clearly a threat to the public by any reasonable standard. He was in a populated area, walking away from the officers, refusing to drop the gun. It was reasonable to believe that if they failed to take action that he would harm someone. So that’s the justification for the initial shots to the back. By the way, that is a question that has been addressed by the SCOTUS in the past. As I understand, no one on here so far is really questioning the reasonableness of the initial shots that drop the suspect.


Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:22 AM

Part 2

The concern seems to be the additional shots after the suspect was on the ground, so let’s talk about that for a moment. The suspect went down from the initial shots but was continuing to crawl forward on his hands and knees or his belly and continued to hold the gun. The question has been raised whether he was still a threat at that point, did he have the ability to pull the trigger, was he facing anyone, was he moving toward anyone, etc. Well, we can’t see from the video what is in front of the suspect so there could have been people directly in front of him but let’s ignore that for a moment. He was right beside a gas station and there are at least a couple of vehicles at the pumps. It’s reasonable to assume there were people with those vehicles. All the suspect would have had to do is point the gun to his left and squeeze the trigger and he could have taken the life of one of those people.


Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:24 AM

Part 3

Even if we assume that the drivers of those vehicles had fled (and that the officer were able to conclusively determine that in the heat of the moment) there are still other people that we conclusively know are in the vicinity. There appears to be multiple people in the store, diner or wherever it is that the video is being shot from. We at least know that there is one person there, the person shooting the video. All the suspect would have had to do is point the gun to his right and pull the trigger and that person could have been hit. Now, I know some doubters are saying “Well that is very unlikely” and you’re right, it would be very unlikely that the person doing the filming would have been hit by the suspect. Unlikely, but far from impossible.


Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:27 AM

Part 4

While it looks like there are several obstructions that would have blocked a bullet (a pick up truck and maybe some other vehicles) remember, the filmer was able to see the suspect which means the suspect could have seen the filmer. If the eyes can see it, a bullet can travel the same path and hit it.

Now to the question of whether the suspect possessed the energy, strength and ability to fire the gun after already being shot and on the ground. Well, you can answer that for yourself very easily. Get down on the ground and crawl on your hands and knees and on your belly and take note of how much energy that requires. Now, find something to simulate a pistol, an unloaded pistol if you have one or a one or two pound weight if you don’t (a hammer or a brick or some similar object will do). While on the ground on your belly, point the “pistol” out from your body in various directions and simulate pulling the trigger.


Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:29 AM

Part 5

Now ask yourself, which action took more energy? Crawling around on your hands and knees and belly? Or pointing the gun around and pulling the trigger? If you answered honestly, the crawling took much more energy than the shooting. So it’s understandable then that if you have enough energy to crawl you have enough energy to shoot. Since we can see that gunman crawling in the video we know he had enough energy to do that. The logical conclusion is that he also had enough energy to shoot.

I hope my responses here have been enlightening and have answered some questions. My goal here was not to insult, mock or belittle anyone. My goal was to point out that the suspect here continued to pose a threat to the general public as well as the officers even after he was down on the ground. In law enforcement, we don’t train to shoot to wound and we don’t train to shoot to kill. We train to shoot to stop a threat. And we continue to do that until the threat is gone.


Jim B. @ 12/18/2015 7:30 AM

Part 6

If, when the suspect was initially hit and fell to the ground he had tossed the gun away, laid still on the sidewalk with his hands out away from his body, he would not have posed an ongoing threat and the officers would not have kept shooting. If they had in that circumstance, this would be a different conversation and I’d be asking some of the same questions you are. But he didn’t do that and the officer’s actions, in the actual situation, were appropriate, reasonable and justified.


Leonard @ 12/21/2015 8:30 PM

@Jim B. I appreciate your perspective and insight. But then again, all of your assertions are based upon what ifs...and not what was apparent in the video. Once again, for the reading impaired, I'm not saying the shooting was unjustified in the least. I am questioning the level of force and the apparent need to try to place 30+ rounds into the back of a man that was crawling away and apparently in no reasonable position to accomplish any of those things you asserted could happen, especially when the suspect had slugs flying into him. I would also assert, that if the officers were so concerned about public safety, they would have been in a better position to shoot. Are we to assume that every round the officers shot actually entered the suspect or can we reasonable expect that some of those rounds missed their target and ricocheted to who knows where endangering the public?

Leonard @ 12/21/2015 8:43 PM

Now granted, from the angle that the officers were engaging the suspect, they may have known or could determine actual level of threat. However, All that was required to ascertain the level of threat, which was negligible in my mind, was simply take a two second or so pause....Evaluate and if needed proceed to shoot again. Instead, the officers decided to fire continuously until the suspect was dead...not because of the level of threat that existed, but rather they made that decision the moment they engaged him. I would argue, it wouldn't have mattered if the suspect dropped the gun while he was crawling, the officers would have continued shooting and there in nothing in officers actions that would indicate otherwise. And this last point that I made is some question the officer's decision to use the level of force they exercised. At no point did they attempt to re-evaluate the situation...they just shot whether they needed to or not. And this is part of the behavior....

Leonard @ 12/21/2015 8:59 PM

that needs to change in the way police execute force. It goes from 0 to 100 and then stays at 100. Soldiers in the military (I'm former Army), aren't taught to engage subjects they way our police do. European police are taught to reevaluate after initial shots are fired, on the rare occasions they do exercise deadly force. Not our police. They shoot until the threat is eliminated, no matter how small the threat. Now I'm certain that some of the more boisterous in this group will start crowing about the officer safety and the threat to them. I understand that and I do not want any officer injured or killed on duty. But at the same time, every suspect, no matter the offense, should have the opportunity to survive an encounter if at all possible. In this case, the officers made no attempt and apparently could care less. In their mind, it was to eliminate the threat and that's what they did. This needs to change if the public is to trust our officers again.

Common sense Leonard @ 12/21/2015 10:36 PM

Really Leonard? The public does for the most part trust police (despite the media's meddling). MOST tax paying non-criminal citizens out there have little to no contact with police other than traffic tickets. You seem more concerned about a guy with a gun who has already fired shots than about the public.

I find it mind boggling and very concerning that you just dismiss all of the "what if's" that Jim B. pointed out. Yes his threat MAY have been over but there is no guarantee of that, he's still holding the gun. An officer has to make those determinations in mere seconds or when the citizen in one of those cars or across the street walks out and gets tagged by the suspects last shot guess who gets blamed.

Finally when someone has a gun, has fired a gun and is a threat to society, you bet you go from 0-100 and stay at 100 until the threat is done. Anything else means that society places lesser value on Officer's lives. They are citizens of this country just as much as goofs like you

Leonard @ 12/22/2015 8:52 AM

Really, the public no longer views the policing institution as it once did. I no longer view the policing institution as I once did. And it has nothing to do with the media and everything to do with police behavior. In fact, the media typically regurgitate what a police spokesperson says in regard to a story and leaves it at that. It took an independent journalist to uncover the McDonald atrocity in Chicago. Social media exposed what some parts of society has been saying about some police for years. Now that everyone has a camera on their cell phone, people can see the the behavior of their police first hand and can make their own judgments in terms of professionalism, behavior and use of force. We finally see the types of violence that police and DAs have deemed legal and many don't like what we see. Legal doesn't equate moral nor a community standard. And it's time that communities impose their will upon the police/DA and tell them what is acceptable behavior. Frankly..

Leonard @ 12/22/2015 9:10 AM

I'm tired of teaching my loved ones how to protect themselves against police. And before some of you say it, its more than just comply. Teaching my family that officers can and will lie to get information from you or try to search your property. Teaching them to protect themselves against Civil Asset Forfeiture during police stops by not consenting to searches without warrant. To protect themselves against profiling by stating the magic words "Am I being detained or am I free to go" To protect themselves against self incrimination by saying "I exercise my right to remain silent" To protect themselves against being tased or shot, by explicitly telling an officer of every move you make before hand. Finally, recording every police interaction, no matter how innocuous. I want my local police to be better and I want to be able to trust them to exercise the proper judgement and restraint in force/deadly force scenarios......

Leonard @ 12/22/2015 9:25 AM

I'm tired of teaching my loved ones how to protect themselves against police. And before some of you say it, its more than just comply. Teaching my family that officers can and will lie to get information from you or try to search your property. Teaching them to protect themselves against civil asset forfeiture during police stops by not consenting to searches without warrant and remaining silent. To protect themselves against profiling by stating the magic words "Am I being detained or am I free to go" To protect themselves against being tased or shot, by explicitly telling an officer of every move you make before hand during every interaction. Finally, recording every police interaction, no matter how innocuous. I want my local police to be better and I want to be able to trust them....

Robb @ 1/9/2016 7:10 PM

*First time reader*

i was going to make a comment I felt was valid, but I read a lot of the other ad hominem attacks and hypothesis contrary to facts by LEO against non-LEO so I decided against it.

People tend to resort to logical fallacies when they have nothing else. Every citizen you encounter could be a threat, unfortunately applying what-ifs or worst case scenarios doesn't win an argument, and creates more hostile contact.

Let's also stick to logic as not doing so turns off educated individuals, not pushing anti-cop agendas, who could very easily be on the side of LEO during this time when hearts and minds are vital.

Feel free to call me either a "douchebag" or "pussilanimous" citizen as that is the reponse I expect with data I derived from this thread. I came here to see what type of community police create -- seems hostile to outsiders even online which is very chilling.

Tread safe, get along, and BUCKLE up -- especially you LEO.

Robb @ 1/9/2016 7:12 PM

Fair to mention I read the fine print as i was posting my last message. It says personal attacks will not be tolerated, yet it seems referring to non-LEO as "douchebags" and "pussilanimous" is acceptable based on the information in this thread. This is slightly ironic given the public arguments about the problems with our mostly urban police forces.

Tschako @ 1/9/2016 8:22 PM

By the way, prone position with a pistol is much more accurate than is the offhand position.

Jim B. @ 1/13/2016 1:13 PM

It’s been a little while since I posted my initial comments but I wanted to reply to some of the responses.
@Leonard, of course my assertions are based on what ifs. Anything that didn’t actually happen is a what if. Just because something is a “what if” doesn’t make it invalid. Police officers have to operate with a mind toward “what if’s”, they have to try and anticipate potential outcomes. If an officer waits until a potential outcome becomes assured, it is typically too late to prevent the harm. No, the suspect didn’t point his gun toward the gas station and pull the trigger. That is a what if. But if the officers had waited for him to do that, it would have very likely been too late for them to do anything about it.
The question is not were the officers actions based on what ifs or on cold hard facts. The question is, were the what ifs he based his actions on reasonable at the time of the event.

Jim B. @ 1/13/2016 1:16 PM

I believe that in my previous comments I outlined a set of reasonable what ifs that justified the officers actions in this incident. You may disagree with those Leonard, and if that is the case, so be it. But they cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because they are “what ifs”. No, the suspect did not point his gun at the gas station. Again, that is a what if. Is it a reasonable what if or not? Well, I demonstrated, or rather described a method for anyone to demonstrate for themselves the ease with which it could have been done. To me, that makes it a reasonable what if. “He could have jumped up and ran three blocks to the elementary school around the corner and taken all the kids hostage.” That too is a what if. Given the circumstances shown in this particular video, I’d have a hard time characterizing that one as a reasonable what if.

Jim B. @ 1/13/2016 1:17 PM

Leonard you also offer a number of what ifs in your rebuttal. “Apparently in no reasonable position to accomplish any of those things you asserted could happen,” there are a legion of true life incidents of people continuing to fight (and killing and injuring others) with unbelievable numbers of bullets in them, “if the officers were so concerned about public safety, they would have been in a better position to shoot.” Really Leonard, and just how would they have accomplished that? They reached the scene from the direction they reached the scene and that’s all they had to work with. Any repositioning they could have done would likely have placed them in greater danger. And that’s not to mention the time it would have taken to relocate themselves. “All that was required to ascertain the level of threat, which was negligible in my mind…” The problem with that Leonard, is that you are making that judgement from the comfortable position of hindsight. We know the outcome. We know..

Jim B. @ 1/13/2016 1:19 PM

We know the suspect was not able to shoot at anyone. We know no bystanders were injured or killed. We know the officers were not injured or killed. We know all this because the action is over and done with and we’re watching it on our computer monitors. The officers on the scene at the time of the incident, didn’t have that luxury. “…was simply take a two second or so pause…Evaluate and if needed proceed to shoot again.” Well I don’t know Leonard, I went back and watched the video again. I saw several pauses of a second or two throughout the video where the officers appeared to be doing just that. Maybe the pauses aren’t long enough for your liking but they certainly aren’t just pulling the trigger until the slide locks back. In each of the pauses, the suspect continues to crawl away while still holding his gun. As the officers on scene Leonard, you and I have to evaluate that threat. We have to ask ourselves: Where is he going? To a position of cover or concealment maybe? Like those

Jim B. @ 1/13/2016 1:21 PM

Like those gas pumps? What will he do when he gets there? Fire at us from a protected position? Slowly lose consciousness as he bleeds to death? I don’t know Leonard, do you? Fell like gambling with your life today? Feel like gambling with the life of an innocent civilian?

“…the officers decided to fire continuously until the suspect was dead…not because of the level of threat that existed, but rather they made that decision the moment they engaged him. I would argue, it wouldn’t have mattered if the suspect dropped the gun while he was crawling, the officers would have continued shooting and there is nothing in the officers actions that would indicate otherwise.” Wow, quite a bit of what ifing there, wouldn’t you say Leonard? Not to mention some mind reading and pre-judging.

I could probably go on but life is calling so I’ll leave it there for now.

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