Body camera videos from two recent Los Angeles police shootings show officers pleading with armed suspects to put down their weapons before both men decide to use them instead — with one shooting a SWAT officer in the neck and the other slashing at a victim with a knife.
In both March 16 incidents, the suspects were subsequently shot by officers. The suspect in the first incident, identified as 36-year-old Jorge Cerda, was pronounced dead outside the family home where he’d holed up with a shotgun. The suspect in the second incident, identified as 32-year-old Marco Diaz, was transported from the transitional housing where he was shot to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery and is expected to survive.
The videos were the first to be released from a string of seven LAPD shootings in recent weeks that raised concerns among activists and police overseers, who said they would be reviewing the shootings as a whole as police investigated each incident individually. The videos put into clearer view two incidents in which police said that officers bravely confronted threats — and fired on the suspects as a last resort.
In the first incident, police were called to a home in the 1000 block of West 21st Street in the Southwest Division by family members of Cerda, who said he was brandishing a shotgun and had fired it into the air. In the video, released by LAPD this week, family members describe the gun and say they believe Cerda is under the influence of drugs.
“He’s so drugged up, we don’t want nothing else to happen,” one family member says.
Officers on the scene make contact with Cerda by telephone, and ask him to come outside and talk with them. They say he is not in trouble.
“I don’t trust you guys,” Cerda can be heard responding at one point.
Over the next four hours, the negotiations to have Cerda exit the home go nowhere. A crisis negotiator comes and speaks to Cerda on a megaphone. They play a message from Cerda’s aunt in Spanish, as well.
“Jorge, mijo, we care a lot about you, mijo,” the aunt says. “Please come out. They’re not going to do anything to you, mijo.”
Eventually, police decided they had reached an impasse and moved in on the home. It was unclear from the video how that decision was made, and police have not articulated their thought process.
Two officers outside the home, around a corner from windows where they believe Cerda is located, discuss not being able to see into the home as one loads and then fires a gas canister through one of the windows, apparently as part of a plan to smoke Cerda out. Seconds later, the second officer, SWAT Officer Rodney Williams, is on one knee with his gun drawn at the edge of the corner when he is seen getting shot in the neck.
Williams slumps over toward his partner, who screams into his radio: “Rodney’s down! Officer’s down! Officer’s down! Rodney’s down!”
The officer drags Williams away from the corner on his back. Blood appears from around the mask Williams is wearing, which his partner eventually pulls off as he tries to stanch the bleeding.
In the second-story window of a neighbor, another officer also was recording when Williams could be heard getting shot. In the video, moments after Williams’ shooting, the officer leans out of the window and shoots downward — where Cerda had appeared from the home next door armed with a shotgun.
“Hey, don’t f—ing move! Don’t move. Don’t reach for that rifle,” the officer screams. Cerda can be seen lying on a driveway, a shotgun partially beneath him.
“You go for that rifle, I’m gonna shoot you again, you understand?” the officer says.
Williams was rushed to a hospital, where he was treated and was expected to survive — thanks in part to his bullet-resistant vest. Cerda was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
In the second incident, patrol and Community Safety Partnership officers were called to transitional housing units in the 1600 block of East 109th Street in the Southeast Division by a man who said a manager at the home was hiding in his bedroom from another resident who was threatening him with a knife outside the bedroom door.
“The gentleman is kicking my manager’s doorway. He’s trying to get in with a knife. He’s trying to cut my manager,” says a 911 caller, who speculates that Diaz is high on drugs.
“I don’t know what he’s on,” the caller says. “I’ve never seen him like this.”
The officers who responded cleared the home of other residents as they yelled for Diaz to come outside. One man who came out told police that Diaz had a “big ol’ knife” and was about to kick in the manager’s bedroom door.
“He’s kicking the door in, so we need to make entry,” says an officer in the video who appears to be commanding the situation.
The officers then enter the home, go up a flight of stairs and find Diaz at the end of a long hallway, where they can see he is holding two knives. The lead officer orders him to put down the knives and slowly walk toward her. He does so but then ignores commands that he place his hands on his head. He then stops in the hallway, still facing the bedroom where the manager is hiding.
“All we’re trying to do is figure out what’s going on,” the lead officer says, before Diaz begins moving back toward the knives.
The lead officer then tells a second officer to shoot Diaz with a 40mm projectile, and Diaz falls to the floor of the hallway — on top of the knives.
“If you reach for those knives again, we’re gonna hit you again. I need you to surrender to us,” the lead officer says.
Moments pass. The officers continue trying to coax Diaz out, speaking in English and Spanish. Diaz rises to one knee near the bedroom door, then pauses. Then, suddenly, he gets up and slams his shoulder into the door, popping it open.
“S—, come on, come on, come on,” the lead officer says, running down the hallway with other officers behind her as the manager begins screaming.
She and a second officer then fire at Diaz in the doorway about 10 times. He falls to the ground in the doorway as the officers begin talking to the manager and asking him whether he is injured.
“Hey are you OK in there?” the lead officer says.
“Uh, yeah I think so,” the manager says.
Police later said the manager suffered cuts to his head and hands.
Two days after the incident, Diaz was charged by L.A. County prosecutors with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Both shootings remain under investigation by the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division and will be reviewed by the department’s inspector general and the civilian Police Commission.
[Warning: This video contains graphic content]