Family and friends gather in Westlake for vigil for man shot dead by LAPD

As dusk fell over the Westlake district in central Los Angeles, several dozen mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil near where a 35-year-old man was shot dead by police during a a foot chase that began when officers allegedly saw him with a gun.

Giovanni Luna was walking near the intersection of Sixth Street and Rampart Boulevard around 3:20 a.m. Saturday when the chase began, police said. The chase ended half a block away in a hail of police bullets.

About 20 of Luna’s family and friends returned to the scene on Wednesday, huddled around a makeshift memorial of votive candles arranged in the shape of a heart. A large picture of Luna hung above the candles. His brother solemnly walked through the crowd of tear-streaked mourners, handing out flowers.

He presented one to Patricia Guevara, Luna’s former girlfriend, who attended the wake with their 14-year-old daughter, Starla Luna. Guevara said losing Luna was hard enough, but in recent days she has found herself struggling to get answers from the police about the circumstances of her death.

“I want the LAPD to take responsibility for his murder,” she said.

But, she tried to put on a good face in front of their daughter, who more than once broke down at home remembering her father.

Luna, Guevara said, worked odd jobs to make ends meet, most recently doing private security for a TikTok influencer, whose name she couldn’t immediately remember. He was also a doting father, she added: “His daughter was everything to him.”

Frustration crept into her voice as she began to discuss the incident and the officers’ delay in providing help after shooting Luna. Grainy cellphone video of its aftermath showed Luna’s body lying on the pavement, as officers watched from several feet away.

Los Angeles Police Department policy says officers are required to provide assistance to people they’ve just shot, but in practice they routinely wait several minutes before approaching, then focus on handcuffing them. and search them.

Another video recorded by a neighbor shows two officers running down the middle of the street with guns drawn, shouting at Luna to “let it go”, before opening fire. The brief recording does not show Luna, who is obscured by a tree. After firing several shots, the officers head towards Luna.

Guevara questioned the need to use lethal force in the first place, saying that despite their de-escalation training, officers seem quick to use their weapons – and later say they fear for their lives. Guevara said that in her job as a nurse in an area hospital, she regularly encounters unruly patients, some of whom are armed. But, she said, she is expected to try to resolve the situation peacefully.

“I’ll tell you what: if [someone] tried to pull a knife on me, and I hit them, guess who loses their license? Me. Because I am a skilled professional,” she said.

Other friends said Luna had mental health issues in the past, which made him prone to outbursts of anger at times and led to several run-ins with law enforcement. In June, he allegedly led California Highway Patrol officers in a chase that ended when the black 2007 Mercedes he was driving crashed on the 134 freeway and caught fire.

Luna suffered a fractured skull and other injuries doctors at the time deemed life-threatening, but he was later released, friends said.

Officers on patrol were waiting at a red light on Saturday when they heard gunshots and saw a man, later identified as Luna, running ahead of them holding a handgun, Chief Michel Moore told Tuesday. the police commission.

Believing they were being shot, officers confronted Luna and shot her, Moore said. It is not known if he was hit by the first volley of bullets. Luna then ran north on Rampart, and officers pursued him on foot; they caught up to him about half a block away in a mostly residential neighborhood and shot him a second time, killing him.

The police department’s account could not be independently verified.

There were no other injuries, although mourners at the vigil maintained that at least one of the bullets fired by police entered a nearby apartment building.

The LAPD has scheduled a community meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the La Fayette Park Community Center to discuss the incident.

As with most fatal police shootings, it is being investigated by the department’s Force Investigations Division. The findings of the investigation will be reviewed by Moore and the civilian-led commission; these reviews can take up to a year.

In most cases, the department releases video from police body cameras or security cameras within 45 days of an incident.

Los Angeles Times

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