Video: Man appeared to be holding gun in moments before shooting by LAPD

Carnell Snell

CBS Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — The day after Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck defended officers who shot and killed men in two separate weekend shootings, his department released surveillance video showing one of men holding what appears to be a gun.

Beck said on Monday that Carnell Snell, Jr., 18, turned toward officers with the gun before he was shot. He said the officers were justified in their use of deadly force because they feared for their lives.

Officer Involved Shooting in South Los Angeles NRF063-16ma by lapdonline lapdonline on YouTube

The video released Tuesday shows a man who police say is Snell running in front of a shopping center. He pauses momentarily, and can be seen putting an object that appears to be a gun into his pants. He then runs away from the camera and around a corner. He was killed soon after.

Beck said at a Tuesday press conference that he decided to release the video to settle questions about the shooting.

“For the general public this certainly shows an individual who was not only armed, but with the intent of keeping the weapon,” Beck said.

Officers said they chased Snell from the shopping center to an alley between two houses, where Snell was stopped by a fence.

“Mr. Snell removed the gun from his waistband, had his gun in his left hand, and turned toward the officers,” Beck said. 

An officer fired three rounds, according to Beck, and Snell climbed over the fence.

“A second three-round volley was fired,” Beck said, killing Snell.

Police said Snell removed the gun from his waistband and turned in the direction of officers, prompting the shooting, but the video does not show those moments.

Officers said they began pursuing Snell Saturday after they tried to pull over a car he was in, because it had paper plates that didn’t match the year of the vehicle — a possible indication of a stolen car and something commonly seen in drive-by shootings, according to Beck. 

Snell, seated in the back, looked at officers and then ducked down “as if to hide from them,” Beck said. 

When officers tried to pull the car over, Snell jumped out holding his waistband and the foot pursuit began, he said. 

Snell died at the scene and police recovered a fully loaded semi-automatic gun with one round in the chamber within 5 feet of where Snell lay, Beck said, adding that the weapon had not been fired. 

The officers were not wearing body cameras, and Beck did not say whether one or more officers fired.

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Carnell Snell

CBS Los Angeles

The shootings come amid heightened tensions over police actions involving black people and other minorities across the country. A protest was expected Tuesday at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission, the department’s board of civilian overseers who now routinely face raucous demonstrators.   

In another shooting this weekend, Los Angeles officers killed a Hispanic man who still hasn’t been identified, pointed a replica that looked like a real gun at police, Beck said.

Police had body-worn cameras on at the time, but Beck said he doesn’t plan to release the footage.

“That is an entirely separate decision, I do these things on a case-by-case basis,” Beck said, adding that he worries that releasing body-worn camera footage will create a precedent making the videos subject to public requests.

Snell was the third black man in five days to die in confrontations with police in Southern California.

Last Tuesday, Alfred Olango was fatally shot by an officer in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon when Olango took a “shooting stance” and pointed at an officer with what turned out to be a 4-inch vape pen - an electronic cigarette device.

On Friday, Reginald Thomas died after being shot with a Taser by police in Pasadena. He was armed with a knife and his wife described him as mentally ill.

Meanwhile, the family of a black man killed by police in Sacramento in July demanded murder charges Monday against two officers heard on a dash-cam video talking about trying to hit the man with their police cruiser before he was shot 14 times