Man killed by LA cops was wanted by US marshals

2015-03-04 12:10


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Los Angeles - A homeless man who was killed by Los Angeles police was living under an assumed name and was wanted for violating probation terms for a bank robbery conviction, French and US officials said on Tuesday.

A law enforcement official identified Charley Saturmin Robinet, 39, as the man police shot Sunday. The official wasn't authorised to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Axel Cruau, the consul general for France in Los Angeles, said the man stole the identity of a French citizen and was living in the United States under an assumed name. He had applied for a French passport in the late 1990s to come to the United States to "pursue a career in acting."

Using the name Robinet, the man was identified as a French national in 2000 when he was convicted of robbing a Wells Fargo branch and pistol-whipping an employee in an effort to pay for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

Normal life

That arrest spurred the consulate to provide the man with support, but as he was nearing his release from prison in 2013, officials found another Robinet in France with the same birthdate and discovered the one in the US was an impostor, Cruau said.

"The real Charley Robinet is in France apparently living a totally normal life and totally unaware his identity had been stolen years and years ago," Cruau said.

While in federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, the bank robber known as Robinet was assigned to the mental health unit, and federal officials said medical staff determined he was suffering from "a mental disease or defect" that required treatment in a psychiatric hospital, documents show.

He served roughly 13 years in prison and then spent six months in a halfway house before being released in May 2014, said Ed Ross, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons.

Foreign nationals are typically deported after serving criminal sentences. But in this case, France would not take the man, since he wasn't really a French citizen. The US Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration authorities could not detain people indefinitely because no country is willing to take them. So once his sentence was served, the man known as Robinet was let free.

Special training

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Virginia Kice said she couldn't immediately comment on his immigration history.

Under the terms of the man's release, he was required to provide reports to his probation officer at the beginning of each month, Deputy US Marshal Matthew Cordova said. When he failed to do so in November, December and January, a federal warrant was issued on 9 January.

The confrontation that ended in the man's death Sunday was recorded on a bystander's cellphone and viewed millions of times online. Authorities said the man tried to grab a rookie officer's gun before three other officers shot him.

The three officers who fired their weapons in the struggle had received special training to deal with mentally ill and other people in the downtrodden area known as Skid Row where the shooting occurred, police leaders said.

But the rookie officer who cried out that the man had his gun, leading to the shooting, had considerably less experience, and police didn't immediately say how much training he had received in dealing with mentally ill people. All officers must go through at least an 11-hour course.

Multiple videos

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said some of the veteran officers had "completed our most extensive mental illness training over a 36-hour course". Initial signs showed the officers used what they had learned during the confrontation, despite the outcome, he said.

Several dozen people rallied on Tuesday in protest of the shooting and observed a moment of silence.

Though the shooting was captured on multiple videos and two officer-worn cameras, exactly what happened remains unclear.

Video showed the homeless man reaching toward the rookie officer's waistband, Beck said. The officer's gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon, the chief said.

"You can hear the young officer who was primarily engaged in the confrontation saying that 'He has my gun. He has my gun,'" Beck said.

The three other officers then opened fire.

Beck said the officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the homeless man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

The man who was shot was black, as is the recently-hired officer who was just short of completing his probationary year on the force, police said.

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