Failures by 3 governments caused homeless man's death

2015-03-05 13:07
Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery. (Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, AP)

Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery. (Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles - Mistakes and miscommunication by three governments on three continents over nearly 20 years led to a homeless man known as "Africa" being on Los Angeles' Skid Row, where he was shot by police after authorities say he became combative and appeared to reach for an officer's weapon.

The problems began in the late 1990s when French officials gave him a passport under what turned out to be a stolen name. He came to the US, robbed a bank and then was convicted and imprisoned under the same false name.

US immigration officials wanted to send him back to his native Cameroon but that country never responded to requests to take him. So he was released from a halfway house last May, and US officials lost track of him in November.

It took three failed monthly check-ins for a warrant to be issued on a probation violation and it's unclear whether anyone actually looked for him. He apparently was living the entire time on Skid Row, roughly 50 square blocks of liquor stores, warehouses, charitable missions and a few modest businesses.

Many of the estimated 1 700 people who sleep nightly on the sidewalks are mentally ill, like Africa.

Los Angeles police commander Andrew Smith said the man had no previous arrests in Los Angeles. While officers spoke to him once or twice, he gave them no reason to suspect he was wanted.

The true name of the man who was long known to authorities as Charley Saturin Robinet remained a mystery on Wednesday, three days after a violent death that was captured on a bystander's video and watched by millions.

Authorities said the man tried to grab a recently-hired Los Angeles police officer's gun, prompting three other officers to shoot. Chief Charlie Beck said the officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

Peter Nunez, a former US attorney in San Diego who heads the centre for immigration studies in Washington, said the case points to multiple failures by government.

He criticized France for not being more diligent in investigating the man's background before issuing a passport and US authorities for not realising he was a "fraud" before the end of his prison term and then not putting more effort into finding him once he disappeared.

Axel Cruau, France's consul general in Los Angeles, said the system for checking backgrounds was vastly different when the man duped French officials.

Using the false name, the man was believed to be a French citizen in 2000 when convicted of robbing a Wells Fargo branch in Los Angeles and pistol-whipping an employee in what he told authorities was an effort to pay for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

In 2013, as he was nearing his release from a federal prison, French officials found the real Robinet in France, Cruau said. US immigration and customs enforcement then determined the impostor actually was from Cameroon but said the African country ignored repeated requests for travel documents, hampering efforts to deport him.

Read more on:    cameroon  |  us  |  france  |  us shooting

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.