Police victim ‘jailed for robbery’

Published: Wednesday 4th March 2015 by The News Editor

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A homeless man killed by Los Angeles police had been released from prison last May after serving roughly 14 years for bank robbery and was wanted by police for violating probation, US officials have said.

A federal warrant was issued January 9 for 39-year-old Charley Saturmin Robinet after he failed to provide monthly reports to a probation officer in November, December and January, Deputy US Marshal Matthew Cordova said.

A law enforcement official identified the man known as Robinet as the person killed on Sunday by police.

Mr Robinet was released from prison on May 12 2014 after being convicted of three federal charges in 2000 for holding up a Wells Fargo bank branch and pistol-whipping an employee to pay for acting classes.

Axel Cruau, the consul general for France in Los Angeles, said the man known as Robinet had stolen the identity of a French citizen and was living in the US under that name after applying for a French passport in the late 1990s.

The bank robbery arrest spurred the consulate to provide Mr Robinet with support, but officials later realised he is not French, Mr 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,” Mr Cruau said.

While in the federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, the man known as Mr 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.

Mr Robinet, who acknowledged being an illegal immigrant, was arrested along with an accomplice and a getaway driver after they tried to rob the bank.

Mr Robinet was killed on Sunday after a confrontation with police. Authorities say he tried to grab a probationary officer’s gun, and three officers fatally shot him.

The three officers who fired their weapons in the videotaped struggle were veterans of the Skid Row beat who had special training to deal with mentally ill and other people in the downtrodden area, police leaders said.

But a recently-hired officer who cried out that the man had his gun, leading to the shooting, had considerably less experience, and police did not 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.

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.

The shooting was captured on video but exactly what happened remained unclear. The footage has been viewed by millions of people online.

Several dozen people took part in a protest over the shooting, which involved a moment of silence, after which participant Patrisse Cullors declared the shooting site to be “sacred ground”.

A memorial at the site of the shooting features white roses placed over a tent, blankets and clothing belonging to the man known as “Africa”.

Footage showed the homeless man reaching toward the recently-hired officer’s waistband, Mr 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.

“You can hear the young officer who was primarily engaged in the confrontation saying that ‘He has my gun. He has my gun,'” Mr Beck said. “He says it several times, with conviction.”

The three other officers then opened fire.

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.

The violence had echoes of the August police shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, whose death in a struggle with Los Angeles officers brought demonstrations in the city. Ford was unarmed. Police said he was shot after reaching for an officer’s gun.

Published: Wednesday 4th March 2015 by The News Editor

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