WOODLAND HILLS--Relatives of a 19-year-old Winnetka man who was shot to death by police following a late-night chase through the western San Fernando Valley insisted today the suspect wasn't carrying a gun, but police said his actions prompted officers to open fire.
The shooting occurred on the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday, triggering a probe by investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department's Force Investigation Division and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
The southbound lanes of the freeway were closed overnight between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Winnetka Avenue while the investigation continued and remained shut down until about 8 a.m., snarling rush-hour traffic and leaving thousands of motorists stranded on the roadway.
Los Angeles police have not said whether the man who was shot and killed by officers was armed. The man's family identified him as Abdul Arian, a recent Taft High School graduate, and said he was unarmed. An uncle said the young man both wanted to be a police officer and feared police, and questioned why police didn't use non-lethal force.
"I just saw a live (television) shot, they are showing over -- God knows how many casings of bullets,'' Arian's uncle, Hamed, told CBS2. "Did they have to shoot that much? Why didn't you use a rubber bullet? Why didn't you use Taser gun? Why didn't you use anything else?''
LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman told the station, however, the shooting was a result of "the suspect's actions."
"Running away from the police and going on the freeway and jeopardizing the lives of not only our officers but the public really led this to a really horrible ending,'' he said.
Officers from the LAPD's Devonshire Station first stopped the suspect's car around 9:50 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Plummer Street and Shirley Avenue in Northridge, according to Officer Karen Rayner of LAPD Media Relations.
The man sped away from the stop and drove recklessly, running red lights, before getting onto the freeway, she said.
He exited the freeway at Topanga Canyon Boulevard and re-entered on the
southbound side. The chase ended on the freeway at Canoga Avenue with the
suspect fleeing through the passenger side door of his car, which was turned
sideways across freeway lanes. A squad car was driven into the driver's side
The suspect could be seen in television footage pointing at officers as he ran, but it was unclear if he had anything in his hand. Either way, the gesture was followed by police fire, and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Reports from the scene indicated that at least three officers opened fire. Dozens of evidence markers, most likely marking the locations of shell casings, were placed on the freeway during the overnight investigation.
Hamed Arian insisted that his nephew did not have a gun.
"He hated guns,'' he told Channel 2.
He said he saw Abdul Arian at about 6 p.m. Wednesday when he was on his way to a gym.
"As soon as he came out from (the) gym, he ran a red light,'' Hamed Arian told the station. "He panicked. OK? He panicked and he ran.''
He said Abdul Arian called 911 during the chase and was speaking to a dispatcher. He suggested that when his nephew got out of the car, he was trying to tell police that he was on the phone with 911.
LAPD officials have not confirmed whether Arian called 911.
-- City News Service