Community leaders question the use of deadly force, but the department says the former college football player was punching officers and trying to take their guns when one officer shot him.
The Los Angeles Police Department on Saturday said that two officers involved in the fatal shooting of a former college football player in Playa Vista were "fighting for their lives" in the moments before one of them discharged his weapon.
The statement about the shooting of Reginald Doucet Jr., who was unarmed and naked when he encountered police Friday morning, came as a prominent civil rights activist questioned why officers couldn't have used non-lethal means to subdue him and called on LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to review the department's training and tactics in dealing with unarmed suspects.
"Is it always going to be a situation where you're going to use deadly force? Because if so, that's a problem," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who heads the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and who attended a vigil at the shooting site Saturday.
But the president of the police union, Paul M. Weber, dismissed that criticism, saying that Doucet fought with police and tried to grab a gun from one of the officers. Just because Doucet was naked and not holding a weapon does not mean he was not a threat, he said, adding that in the past officers have been "killed by naked people … who disarmed the officer."
In this case, naked or not, when Mr. Doucet tried to take an officer's gun away from him, he set in motion the chain of events that sadly led to his death," Weber said. "An officer who loses his gun to a suspect loses his life."
Doucet, a former defensive back at El Camino College and Middle Tennessee State University, was shot about 3:30 a.m. just outside his condominium in the 5200 block of Crescent Park West.
Police were summoned to the scene because Doucet was naked and yelling, and had been arguing with a cab driver.
Officers tried to calm him, and at one point talked him into putting on his boxer shorts, but he ran when they tried to apprehend him, police said.
Finally, when officers tried to detain him in front of his home, Doucet "immediately attacked both officers," according to police, punching them in the face and head. Then he reportedly tried to take one of the officer's guns.
That's when one of the officers, who has been on the force for 17 months, shot Doucet twice, police said. He died at a hospital.
The other officer has five years with the LAPD and was "battered and dazed," police said.
Both officers required medical treatment, one for face and ankle injuries, the other for injuries to his jaw and head.
Chris Ellison, Doucet's neighbor and former agent, said he was stunned by the incident, including Doucet's alleged behavior.
"What bothers me is that if he was naked, they knew for a fact that he didn't have any weapons on him. Were the police really getting whooped that bad that they needed to shoot him — twice? They can't pull out a billy club? They can't Tase him? They have to shoot him?" he said in an interview Friday.
"Maybe he was belligerent, I don't know, but I have never seen him drunk. Never. Violent? Never," he added. "He was an outstanding young man who was trying to make a better life."
Doucet was 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds when he played at Middle Tennessee State University, according to his biography there.
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