Image: Los Angeles police officers fire nonlethal foam projectiles
Damian Dovarganes  /  AP
Los Angeles police officers fire nonlethal foam projectiles at protesters on nearby apartment buildings.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/8/2010 3:54:35 AM ET 2010-09-08T07:54:35

Protesters on Tuesday night pelted a police station with eggs, rocks and bottles despite Police Chief Charlie Beck's plea for calm earlier in the day and his promise to thoroughly investigate an officer's fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant wielding a knife.

Police reported 22 arrests late Tuesday, mainly for failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, Officer Karen Rayner told The Associated Press. Officers fired at least two volleys of nonlethal foam projectiles at demonstrators, she added.

The demonstrators, including families with children, bolted down the street and into alleyways as the shots were fired, The Los Angeles Times reported. During the ruckus, witnesses told the Times, a man fell off his bicycle and struck his head.

NBC News also reported police fired tear gas at the crowd.

Appeal for calm
The melee followed a late-afternoon news conference where Beck said only 40 seconds went by between the time officers made contact with Manuel Jamines on Sunday and the moment an officer shot him twice.

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The shooting prompted demonstrations Monday near MacArthur Park, a densely packed neighborhood west of downtown populated with recent immigrants from Central America. Four people were arrested on suspicion of inciting a riot, and others threw rocks and bottles at police, slightly injuring three officers, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.

The protest gained steam again Tuesday night, when about 300 people took their complaints to the Rampart police station near downtown Los Angeles, about two blocks from where Jamines died, said Lt. Andrew Neiman.

A citywide tactical alert was called to free up more officers to respond to the area, Rayner said.

MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash in which police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured. Police said it began with a group of "agitators" outside the park throwing objects at officers.

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.

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Incident reviewed
Beck said the incident involving Jamines started when someone flagged down three bicycle officers to tell them a man was threatening people with a knife.

The officers approached the suspect and told him in Spanish and English to put down the knife. Instead, Jamines raised the knife above his head and lunged at Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the department, Beck said. The other officers present included Steven Rodriguez, a five-year veteran; and Paris Pineda, who also has been on the force for five years, Beck told reporters at news conference at LAPD headquarters Tuesday evening.

The three are assigned to the Rampart Division's bicycle unit, the Times said.

Eyewitness accounts from six civilians, nine police personnel and two fire department staff indicate Hernandez fired twice "in immediate defense of life," Beck said. Jamines, 37, died at the scene.

Investigators recovered a bloody, 6-inch knife at the scene but didn't know where the blood came from.

"This was a very brief moment in time, just 40 seconds between first contact and the time of the shooting," Beck said. "He rushed the officers with a knife so he's controlling the timeframe. Sometimes officers can't create time or distance."

Beck said the timeline was based on preliminary interviews, and the department's Force Investigation Division will conduct an exhaustive probe. The three officers involved in the shooting have been temporarily reassigned during the investigation.

Beck said the area where the incident occurred "is not an easy place to police," in part because of its large immigrant population and widespread illegal vending.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was at the news conference, urged residents not to resort to violence. "We need to calm the waters," he said.

Neighbors defend Jamines
Jamines' neighbors described him as being drunk but not dangerous.

"Killing a drunk isn't right," said Jamines' cousin Juan Jaminez, 38, a day laborer. He and others said Jamines was a friendly, hardworking man who liked to drink on the weekends but wasn't violent.

Jamines had a wife and three children — ages 13, 6 and 8 — in his hometown of Mazatenango, Guatemala, his cousin said.

Nick Ut  /  AP
A makeshift memorial Tuesday sits on a downtown Los Angeles street for Manuel Jamines, a knife-wielding Guatemalan immigrant shot and killed by police Sunday. Protests over the shooting turned violent on Monday and Tuesday.

He came to the United States six years ago to find work as a day laborer and spent most of his time looking for jobs in the parking lot of the Home Depot a block away.

"The officer who did this should be subject to discipline and a thorough investigation," said Juan Flores, 39, a cook at a downtown restaurant who knew Jamines. "We want to know, is he on vacation or is he fired?"

Flores said the officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue Jamines.

Beck said the officer who shot Jamines had no baton or stun gun with him. He said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons found in patrol cars.

Tuesday protest turns to rampage
On Tuesday evening, dozens of people lit prayer candles at the site where Jamines was killed.

Demonstrators had hung posters with Spanish slogans that said: "The people demand accountability," "No more murders," and "The police murdered a day laborer and we demand justice."

About 300 people blocked the intersection of Union and 6th, the Times said. They were standing outside the Restaurant Atilan Express, a Guatemalan eatery, and were illuminated by the spotlight of police helicopters circling overhead.

The crowd shouted in Spanish, "Police are racist and killers!" and "Join the march!" as they were led by a man shouting in a bullhorn.

One man was injured when he fell from his bike after police fired on the crowd. The Times said 20-year-old, Jesus Alejandro Hernandez Carmona, was lying on the ground and bleeding profusely from the left side of his head. He was near the candle-lighted memorial to Jamines.

Carmona was surrounded by a crowd, which was bookended by police lined up along 6th and Union on the east and Burlington Avenue on the west.

Los Angeles Fire Department ambulances were at the scene but were not crossing the police line. When asked by a reporter why the man was not receiving medical attention, a police commander said, “Tough.”

Carmona was treated after friends helped him walk past the police line to ambulances, the Times said.

Protesters were hurling bottles and other objects at officers, who declared an unlawful assembly about 9:30 p.m., the Times said. The protesters had marched along 6th Street and past Union Avenue.

Police had completely cordoned off 6th Street between Union Lane on the east and Alvarado Street near MacArthur Park on the west.

Fires erupted on 6th Street.

At one point a police skirmish line held protesters at bay in front of Rampart Station., said NBC News.

'Better not to cause problems'
Earlier, Juana Neri, 57, a Mexican immigrant housewife who lives nearby, pushed her grocery bag in a baby stroller past the corner where Jamines was killed.

"It's bad, what the police did, but what's worse is the silly stuff that people were doing here," she said, referring to Monday's violence. "We are not in our country, and with the problems that Hispanic immigrants have these days, it's better not to cause problems."

Lt. Andrew Neiman said Monday's peaceful candlelight vigil escalated to violence because a group handing out fliers for the Revolutionary Communist Party rallied the crowd with a bullhorn until the police declared an unlawful assembly.

"They were antagonistic, vocal and derogatory to the police," Neiman said. "They tie themselves to immigrants' rights protests, and people who live there say they're not from the community."

A telephone listing for the Revolutionary Communist Party could not be found.

Beck said the brawling was caused by several factors.

"First, we understand this is an emotional issue and we need to get the facts out. Second, there's the outside agitators. And finally, it was the third day of a three-day weekend and some people in the crowd had been drinking," he said.

The police union issued a statement Tuesday calling the shooting a "tragic incident" and saying 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," the Los Angeles Police Protective League's statement said. "This was not and should not be a controversial shooting."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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