Anthony Lowe: Family brings lawsuit for ‘unacceptable’ LA police killing of double amputee
The family of Anthony Lowe, a Black man and double amputee who was fatally shot last week by Los Angeles area police, intends to sue the city of Huntington Park for civil rights violations.
“They’re trained to respond in a certain manner when someone has a disability,” Christian Contreras, an attorney for the Lowe family, told The Independent. “We have law, state and federal, which prevents this kind of abuse.”
On 26 January, Huntington Park police responded to a call that a man in a wheelchair had stabbed someone. Multiple officers arrived to find Lowe holding a knife.
Partial bystander video, which contains graphic images, captures Lowe appearing to flee, exiting his wheelchair and crawling along the ground, before police shot him multiple times.
“It’s just unacceptable they would do this in such a callous manner when they knew Mr Lowe wasn’t even a threat,” Mr Contreras added. “They knew Mr Lowe wasn’t even that mobile. It’s just unjustifiable what they did.”
An initial police statement claimed Lowe was “attempting to throw the knife at the officers,” though later descriptions of the incident revised that language and said the 36-year-old father of two “threatened to advance or throw the knife at the officers.”
Huntington Park police don’t wear body cameras, and officials have said they may not release surveillance video of what happened from a nearby business.
Mr Contreras argues that local officials failed to train their officers to adequately respond to crisis situations involving disabled people, and are now trying to bury their errors.
“They’re trying to cover up what happened,” he said. “They’re trying to cover up their mistakes. They’re finding they can’t justify what they did.”
The attorney has spoken with witnesses who saw the shooting, and is demanding to see the surveillance video.
The Independent has contacted the city of Huntington Park and its police department for comment.
Less than two weeks after Tyre Nichols, another Black man, was killed at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Lowe’s family and community members have shared their outrage about Lowe’s death far and wide.
“You guys knew your lives wasn’t in danger,” Lowe’s cousin Ellakenyada Gorum told KCAL last week. “He’s running on his limbs. How cold-hearted could they be?”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting. Lieutenant Hugo Reynaga said there are no charges being discussed for the officers involved in the killing, who haven’t been named and remain on paid administrative leave.
“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,” the officer told the Los Angeles Times. “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.”
Cliff Smith, an organizer with the grassroots Coalition for Community Control Over The Police, said even from what limited video is available, Lowe presented “no imminent threat to anybody,” and worries that the sheriff’s office has already made up its mind in its investigation of the incident.
“I don’t know what other purpose there is for the Sheriff’s Department to be undergoing an invest if their spokespokes is already announcing what the outcome will be,” he told The Independent.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón will review the incident once the sheriff’s department concludes its investigation.
"This has been an incredibly tragic start to 2023. Los Angeles County deserves to know how and why these incidents have occurred," the DA said in a statement.
The man Lowe allegedly stabbed suffered a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. He remains in critical condition, LAist reports.
Community member Jas Liberto told the site that the shooting underscores the need for nonviolent first responders.
“Mental health care professionals don’t carry guns on them, they carry skills, tactics, ways to de-escalate a situation,” she said. “I don’t know what [Lowe] was dealing with…but what I can tell you is that [his death] could have been prevented.”