Image: A makeshift memorial
Nick Ut  /  AP
A makeshift memorial is shown Tuesday on a downtown Los Angeles street for Manuel Jamines, a Guatemalan immigrant who was shot and killed in a police shooting Sunday.
updated 9/7/2010 5:57:22 PM ET 2010-09-07T21:57:22

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck is defending the deadly police shooting of a knife-wielding man that sparked a violent protest.

Beck told the Police Commission on Tuesday that the officer who shot Manuel Jamines, 37, acted in defense of life on Sunday. The Los Angeles Times reports that Beck also says officers had warned Jamines in both Spanish and English to drop the knife before the father of three was shot.

The shooting of the Guatemalan immigrant prompted some violent protests late Monday near MacArthur Park, an area with a large population of Spanish-speaking immigrants. Four were arrested and three officers received slight injuries after some demonstrators began throwing rocks and bottles.

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On Monday night, some protesters began hurling rocks, bottles and debris at officers and set some trash on fire. By the time the confrontation ended at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, four people had been arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor inciting a riot, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.

Three officers were slightly injured by hurled debris but returned to duty, he said.

Lt. Andrew Neiman claimed "provocateurs" started the confrontation, City News Service reported.

There was no further violence Tuesday, but officers planned to keep squads on streets in the area through the day, he added.

Beck provided a detailed preliminary account of the shooting to the civilian commission that oversees the police force. He said three bicycle patrol officers were flagged down Sunday afternoon and told that a man with a knife was threatening people.

Some people in the neighborhood have said that Jamines understood little or no English. However, Beck said officers who spotted the man repeatedly ordered him, in both English and Spanish, to drop the knife. Instead, he raised it over his head and moved toward the officers, one of whom fired two shots at him, Beck said.

Jamines, 37, was pronounced dead at the scene. Friends said he was a construction worker and father of three.

Protesters contended the man was drunk but not dangerous and say officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue him.

Beck said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons that are found in patrol cars.

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The police union issued a statement Tuesday calling the shooting a "tragic incident" and said community activists were trying to stir up controversy.

"Getting drunk and threatening bystanders and then LAPD officers with a knife is dangerous and self-destructive in any language," said the statement from the Los Angeles Police Protective League. "This was not and should not be a controversial shooting."

On Tuesday afternoon Juana Neri, 57, a Mexican immigrant housewife who lives two blocks away, pushed her grocery bag in a baby stroller past the corner where the man was killed.

"It's bad, what the police did, but what's worse is the silly stuff that people were doing here," she told The Associated Press, referring to the violence.

"We are not in our country, and with the problems that Hispanic immigrants have these days, it's better not to cause problems," she said.

About 30 people stood around a circle of prayer candles near the site where Jamines was killed.

Dozens of posters were fixed on an iron gate, with Spanish slogans that said: "The people demand accountability," "No more murders" and, "The police murdered a day laborer and we demand justice."

Neiman said Jamines was known in the neighborhood as a habitually drunk nuisance and that witnesses identified him as threatening people with the knife before he was shot, City News Service said.

"One of those was a woman who said she saw the suspect threatening a woman with a knife," he said. "Her attention was drawn by a crying 4-year-old who was standing next to the woman."

The witness said she told the man to "go away" because he was scaring people and then he threatened her as well, Neiman said.

MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash, where police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured as officers cleared the park.

The embarrassing incident cost the city more than $13 million in lawsuit settlements. Police were retrained on crowd control, forming skirmish lines, using batons in a crowd and using extraction teams to identify and arrest violent demonstrators.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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