Saturday, July 13, 2024

Video adds to questions about police shooting of a double amputee holding a knife

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As they do every week during football season, the Lowe family gathered Sunday morning to watch the NFL games on two big flat screens in the South Los Angeles home of the family matriarch.

But as the San Francisco 49ers prepared to face off against the Philadelphia Eagles, there was one fewer family member watching. Anthony Lowe, 36, had been shot and killed by Huntington Park police officers Thursday afternoon.

Instead of talking football, the family spoke in hushed tones of the grainy cellphone video they’d seen the night before: Lowe, a double amputee, trying to run from Huntington Park police officers on what was left of his legs while holding a long-bladed knife.

Lowe’s lower legs had been amputated last year. In the video, he appears to have just dismounted from a nearby wheelchair. As he scrambled down the sidewalk away from the uniformed officers, two police sport utility vehicles drove into the frame and parked, blocking the camera’s view.

The video, which was posted on Twitter on Saturday, then abruptly ends; no footage of the ensuing gunfire has been released.

Yatoya Toy, Lowe’s older sister, identified the man running from police as her brother. She said that his legs had been amputated after an altercation with law enforcement in Texas, and that the family also has questions about that incident.

Three people look after a candle memorial.

Anthony Lowe Jr. along with his aunts Yatoya Toy and Tatiana Jackson look at the candle memorial set up for their dad and brother Anthony Lowe, a disabled man who was shot by police officers in Los Angeles.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“This is the first [Sunday] where he ain’t watching the game with us. It’s what he loves to do,” Toy said. She still uses present tense when referring to her brother, who has two teenage children. “He’s the life of the family. He brings happiness, joy; he loves to dance. He’s very respectable, he loves his mother. He’s the favorite uncle. The kids all love him.”

Lowe’s death is a devastating loss for the close-knit Lowe family, Toy said. And it comes at a time of increased scrutiny of police brutality and violence after a string of high-profile incidents, including the beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police this month.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit is investigating Lowe’s shooting, as it typically does for all shootings involving Huntington Park Police Department officers, according to the unit’s Lt. Hugo Reynaga.

A detective with the homicide unit stopped by the home of Dorothy Lowe, the dead man’s 53-year-old mother, Saturday to interview family. They responded, Toy said, by peppering the detective with questions about Anthony’s death.

The answers the detective provided were vague and unpersuasive, said Tatiana Jackson, another sister of Lowe. Their biggest question: What was so threatening about a disabled double amputee with a knife that it necessitated shooting him?

“Something is not right with this situation,” Jackson said. “My daughter is 4, and she adores him. It’s going to break my heart to let her know. She does not understand. She was looking for him, like, ‘Is he hiding from me?’ I can’t bring myself to tell her that he will never come back again.”

Reynaga said in a phone interview Sunday that the Sheriff’s Department has collected video of Lowe’s shooting from a nearby business but that it does not intend to release the footage. Huntington Park police officers, he said, do not wear body cameras.

Reynaga said two officers fired at Lowe “somewhere around 10 times. … We recovered 10 or 11 casings at the scene. I don’t know which of those actually hit him.”

Reynaga said the names of the two officers who shot at Lowe will be released in the coming days. The officers, he said, are on leave “for a few days” while they undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and they will be assigned administrative duties until the command staff approves them to go back to fieldwork.

Asked if there is any discussion of charges against the officers who opened fire on Lowe, Reynaga said only “no.” The Huntington Park Police Department did not return calls requesting comment Sunday.

Asked why it was necessary to shoot Lowe, Reynaga noted that the officers repeatedly tased him “to no effect” before opening fire.

The Sheriff’s Department’s initial statement about the shooting investigation, released Friday, said Lowe twice tried to throw his knife at officers. But Reynaga said Sunday that Lowe “did not throw the knife ultimately, but he made the motion multiple times over his head like he was going to throw the knife.”

Reynaga said he did not know how many times Lowe was tased.

“He tried to run away, and every time he turned around and did the motion like he was gonna throw the knife at him, they tased him,” he said. “They were trying to give this guy the less-lethal taser shock. And because it was ineffective, they had to go to something that was more effective.”

Reynaga also provided additional context about an alleged stabbing that took place shortly before Lowe was killed.

In the Friday statement, the Sheriff’s Department said that a man in a wheelchair — later identified as Lowe — allegedly stabbed a man Thursday afternoon before fleeing in a wheelchair.

Reynaga said the victim — whose name has not been made public — called police to report the alleged stabbing and that he sustained a punctured lung and was taken to a hospital. Reynaga said he did not know the medical status of the man who was stabbed.

Lowe was shot in “the upper torso” and pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting, according to the Friday Sheriff’s Department statement.

A spokesperson for the L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office said Sunday that Lowe’s time of death was 3:57 p.m. Thursday. Because his body has yet to be examined, the spokesperson said, the office does not have information about his cause of death, the condition of his body or other key details of his death.

The limited information available on the office’s website Sunday afternoon listed his place of death as simply “sidewalk.”

The man who filmed the moments leading up to Lowe’s death could not be reached for comment Sunday. But the street behind Lowe in the video appears to be the 1900 block of Slauson Avenue in Huntington Park, which is where the Sheriff’s Department statement said he died.

On Sunday afternoon, dozens of red and white candles were arranged in the shape of the letters “BR” for BabyRyda, Lowe’s nickname, because he “would always come through for his family. You know, like, ride for you, whether it was schoolwork or taking the kids to the park. There was just so much that he did,” Jackson said.

Dorothy Lowe said she last saw her son several hours before his death. He was feeling depressed and cooped up at her house, where he had stayed for the final few months of his life after losing his legs, and he wanted to get some fresh air, she said. The last time she heard from him, he said he was at a nearby McDonald’s.

“He was a good kid coming up — very funny, always laughing. … If you ask anyone, he was a good person, always helping others,” she said Sunday via a video call from her job as a caretaker. “With his passing, I don’t take death good, and I don’t like the way my son was hurt like that, and I want to know what happened. I want to know the truth.”

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