A Los Angeles police officer broke department policy by shooting a suspect who allegedly knocked him out with his own Taser at a southern LA housing unit last year, the Civilian Police Commission ruled.
The decision marked a rare reprimand from an officer for opening fire on what officials saw as an immediate and deadly threat. However, officials found that the officer strayed so far from police protocols established before the shooting that the shooting itself was also unwarranted.
The incident came after suspect Nicholas Hankins, 31, allegedly threw a gun into a van, resisted arrest, threw the officer on the ground and then fled through the housing complex socials at Nickerson Gardens with the officer chasing him in November. , officials said.
In its unanimous decision on Tuesday, the commission agreed with Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore’s conclusion that Constable Jacob Duchsherer acted inappropriately when he fired a shot into the ground. from the housing unit when the suspect allegedly knocked him out in the leg with his Taser.
“I have determined that due to improper tactical decision making Officer Duchsherer unnecessarily placed himself at a significant tactical disadvantage,” Moore wrote in a report to the commission. “This tactical disadvantage unnecessarily exposed Officer Duchsherer to Hankins’ aggressive behavior, resulting in the use of lethal force by Officer Duchsherer.”
The bullet fired by Duchsherer did not hit Hankins, who pleaded not guilty to assault with a lethal weapon and resisting arrest charges during the encounter. Hankins could not be reached for comment.
The incident began around 10:50 p.m. on November 20, 2020, when Duchsherer and his partner Officer Min Yong Chung, members of the Southeast Zone Gang Enforcement Group, observed a group of men gathered. around a duplicate parked vehicle in a Nickerson Gardens car park. , police said.
Officers, responsible for monitoring the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang and enforcing community housing rules, told investigators they knew some of the men from previous arrests, knew they were members of the ‘gang and that they did not live in the community. Chung also told investigators that he saw Hankins “make a throwing motion” towards a van in the parking lot as they pulled over, and believed he may have been hiding a gun.
As officers got out of their vehicle, Chung told Duchsherer to “grab” Hankins, and Duchsherer did, telling Hankins he would explain why he was being held after his execution, investigators found.
Hankins instead withdrew his arms, resisting the detention, and Duchsherer moved his hands up to Hankins’ neck to establish a grip “similar to a wrestling move commonly referred to as a full nelson,” investigators found. Hankins continued to resist and Duchsherer’s body camera was thrown to the ground – where she continued to record as Hankins allegedly used a “leg sweep” to knock Duchsherer to the ground before fleeing, investigators said. .
Chung initially stayed in the parking lot to keep an eye on the gun Hankins allegedly threw in the van, which he said he could see but not access, investigators said. However, after about a minute, he decided to follow Duchsherer, investigators said. Police said Chung’s body camera was also dislodged at some point during the incident and was never recovered.
Police alleged that a second man retrieved the gun from the van after Chung left the area and threw it near trash cans before being arrested by other officers arriving at the scene. The weapon was then recovered and the man was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun.
As Duchsherer chased Hankins through the compound, Hankins was at one point lying on the ground, as if intending to surrender, Duchsherer told investigators. However, he then stood up as Duchsherer approached, the officer said. Believing that Hankins would try to fight him, Duchsherer said he fired his Taser at Hankins from several yards away, causing Hankins to run once more.
On the porch of a nearby unit, Duchsherer told investigators that Hankins appeared to surrender once again, but then turned on him. Duchsherer activated his Taser again, this time in drive-stun mode on Hankins’ shoulder, investigators said.
Hankins then turned and entered the unit, passing two children inside. Duchsherer followed him and grabbed Hankins’ shirt near the unit’s back door, investigators said. Duchsherer then Taser Hankins a third time before Hankins grabbed Duchsherer’s Taser and activated it in “drive-stun” mode against the officer’s leg, investigators said.
Duchsherer told investigators he believed his entire body was on the verge of “extinction” and feared Hankins would kill him if he did. So he pulled out his gun and shot Hankins, missing him, investigators said.
Hankins then ran outside. Duchsherer followed with his gun still drawn and ordered Hankins to lie on the ground, investigators said. Chung spotted them there and Hankins was taken into custody, investigators said. Hankins was then treated for a Taser probe on his right torso.
In his report on the shooting, Moore criticized Duchsherer’s actions early in the meeting, saying the officer immediately “deviated from his predetermined role as a cover officer” as he and Chung approached the men. on the parking.
Duchsherer then attempted to stop Hankins on his own, chased after him alone and “on several occasions he failed to assess the risk Hankins posed” to his safety as he pursued him through the compound, Moore wrote .
When Hankins stopped on the porch, Duchsherer rushed towards him “instead of creating distance and looking for cover” and “although he was already overpowered by Hankins,” Moore wrote.
Duchsherer never checked to make sure Chung was with him and rushed into the unit unsupported and without knowing who was inside instead of assessing the situation first, Moore wrote. During the chase, he never radioed his position or that he was chasing anyone, Moore wrote.
When it was “assessed in light of the series of substandard tactical decisions” that led to the shooting and “the connection between those decisions and the circumstances in which Constable Duchsherer was forced to fire his gun. weapon, “the shooting was” incompatible “with departmental policy. , wrote Moore.
It is unclear what penalty Duchsherer may incur for breaking policy during the shot. The administrative discipline process for LAPD agents convicted of violating departmental policy is closed to the public.