Officials for the Los Angeles Country Sheriff released photos and a video that appears to show a man holding a gun seconds before he is fatally shot by deputies in a 12 December incident. The man, identified as 28-year-old Nicholas Robertson, allegedly fired six to seven shots in the air before heading to a shopping district on Long Beach Boulevard.
Captain Steve Katz said the suspect entered at least one business while "behaving erratically with gun in hand". The video displayed during the news conference showed Robertson wielding a weapon as two deputies arrive on the scene. According to The Los Angeles Times, Katz said "public safety was critical here" especially because there were people near Robertson.
The suspect reportedly pointed the gun towards the deputies and later ignored their commands to drop the weapon, Katz said. "We do have evidence that the suspect did fire the weapon multiple times prior to the interaction with the deputies," Katz said as he referred to 911 calls made to the department.
Deputies opened fire and continue to shoot Robertson, even as he is seen crawling. The two deputies fired 16 and 17 shots each. Officials said Robertson continued to hold on to his weapon throughout the shooting.
Katz told reporters that the investigation was ongoing, but revealed that Robertson may have had a "domestic discord" with his wife that prompted his actions. The Times reported that Sheriff Jim McDonnell noted Robertson had "prior contact with the criminal justice system". CBS LA reported that Robertson's gun was not loaded at the time of the encounter but he did have ammunition on him.
Najee Ali, the political director of the National Action Network, held a news conference outside the Sheriff's headquarters, CBS LA reported. "It's very troubling anytime you have someone shot and killed by police officers, especially those who are shot in the back and shot again and they crawled to their death," Ali said before urging calm from community members.
"Let's not rush to judgement. Let's stay calm, cool and collected and let's get to the truth of what happened with this situation because at the end of the day we don't want to see what happened in Chicago, what happened in Philadelphia, what happened in Ferguson happen in LA County," Ali added. McDonnell said that the two deputies involved have been reassigned from field duty during the investigation.