16-year-old killed by LAPD called 911 before shooting, left 'farewell note,' police say

A 16-year-old fatally shot by a Los Angeles police officer in South L.A. called 911 himself before the shooting and left his family a “farewell note,” leading investigators to believe he had a “desire to end his own life,” LAPD chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.

Coroner’s officials identified the boy Thursday as Daniel Enrique Perez, an L.A. resident who died at a hospital Sunday evening after he was shot near 45th Street and Ascot Avenue.

Beck said detectives identified Perez through a cellphone he was carrying, which was used to call 911 before the encounter. The caller reported a man with a gun matching Perez’s description, Beck said.

One of Perez’s parents believes it was the teenager on the call, the chief added. The call was placed about 20 minutes before the shooting.

Based on that call, the note, Perez’s actions and his “prior history” described by family, the chief said he believed the shooting stemmed from Perez’s “desire to end his own life.”

“We are deeply saddened by these events,” the chief said. The tragedy is hard to describe.”

The officer who shot Perez, Beck said, “is devastated.”

The LAPD has said Perez was shot after pointing a realistic-looking replica gun at police.

It was the second deadly shooting by LAPD officers during a roughly 24-hour span, coming on the heels of the controversial shooting of 18-year-old Carnell Snell Jr., which prompted protests and stirred long-standing frustrations over how police treat residents of South L.A.

On Sunday, during a second night of demonstrations over Snell’s death, news spread of the second police shooting. 

Officers went to 48th and Ascot after someone reported a man with a gun in the area, LAPD Beck had said. The officers spotted someone matching that description — described as a Latino man with a gray sweater and black pants — and began to approach him, Beck said.

That person, now identified as Perez, then turned and pointed a handgun at the officers, Beck said, prompting police to open fire.

The gun turned out to be a replica weapon, with its orange tip covered by black paint or pen, the chief said.

Police initially described the person shot as a man between the ages of 18 and 22.

The officers who shot Perez were wearing body cameras, which Beck said “clearly supports” the officers’ accounts.

Tiffany Peterson, 45, said she watched Sunday afternoon’s shooting from a window in her family’s home across the street from Ascot Elementary School. Peterson said she saw Perez run down the block and stop when officers got out of their car. Perez appeared to put his arms by his side, though Peterson said she could only see him from his waist up. She said she did not see him with a gun but could not see his hands. A parked vehicle partly obstructed her view of what happened, she said.

One of the officers fired without warning, she said.

“They jumped out of the car and they didn't tell him to freeze or nothing,” Peterson said Monday. “They just shot him.”

She said police fired again when Perez was on the ground.

Beck said the body camera footage “clearly refutes” reports Perez was shot while on the ground.

“That did not happen,” he added.

But the LAPD has not made those recordings public.

In a rare move Tuesday, Beck released a security video from the moments leading up to Snell’s shooting, which showed the 18-year-old holding a handgun.

Beck said Snell later turned toward officers while holding the gun, prompting them to fire.

Many activists and residents of Snell’s neighborhood have questioned the police account of the shooting, including whether he had a gun. 

Beck, generally a staunch advocate of keeping such videos confidential, said he released the footage out of concern for public safety as well as to correct what he described as “significant misinformation” about the deadly encounter.

But, the chief said, releasing body camera footage could set a standard for the LAPD in terms of complying with public records requests for such recordings. The chief has long cited concerns about victim privacy and protecting the integrity of investigations as his reasoning for generally not releasing such videos unless required in court.

That stance has drawn criticism from activists and civil liberties groups, which renewed their objections this week after Beck released one video while withholding another.

“It’s clear that keeping video confidential isn’t going to work. It undermines public trust more than it advances it,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the ACLU of Southern California. “Body camera footage or other video doesn’t provide transparency if the public never gets to see it.”

kate.mather@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @katemather

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